President Charles M. Vest will preside over Institute Commencement exercises for the 14th and final time this Friday. To mark this occasion and to celebrate the dynamic and innovative years of Vest's leadership, the News Office asked him to reflect in writing on the defining moments of the years since 1990.
The result is a booklet containing six essays written by Vest, along with an accordion-style timeline highlighting events in research, education and community life at MIT during his tenure. It will be available for free to the MIT community on Commencement day.
"The News Office staff has been privileged to observe and to report on President Vest's leadership and accomplishments over the past 14 years," said Arthur Jones, director of the News Office. "As individuals and as a group, we have also carried MIT's key messages to outside media and the larger world. We're pleased to publish President Vest's reflections on MIT's recent growth and ongoing challenges. This is an opportunity for all of us to appreciate and better understand an important chapter in Institute history."
The News Office booklet project began in April, when the News Office asked Vest to comment on some of the key challenges and innovations that were most meaningful to him and to MIT. He was enthusiastic about the project, but emphasized that it should focus on MIT and not on his personal experiences. His introduction to the essays sets the booklet's thoughtful tone.
"Serving as president of a major research university is not a sandbox ambition for any child--I remain frankly astonished at the road that led me here. I am also overwhelmed with the sense of how much I owe to the insight, imagination, inspiration and judgment of the many, many gifted people I have been lucky enough to work with at MIT," he writes.
Vest's essays reflect on the genesis of MIT's office in Washington, D.C.; the personal and professional challenges he and his colleagues underwent following the Report on the Status of Women Faculty; a behind-the-scenes view of OpenCourseWare; the pursuit of the brain and cognitive sciences as one of MIT's major intellectual priorities; and two essays on building the most invigorating campus and campus life for MIT's students, faculty and staff.
The timeline offers a snapshot of each year. To see a web-based version of the timeline, go to http://web.mit.edu/timeline.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 2, 2004 (download PDF).