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Presidential search gets under way as panels' members named

Presidential search committee members assigned to select the next MIT president share at least two common understandings about the major task before them--that they "have a lot of work to do" and that "we are confident we will find a superb candidate."

Those sentiments were expressed last week by James A. Champy, chair of the Corporation Committee on the Presidency, following the first joint meeting of the two principal committees appointed to find a successor to President Charles M. Vest.

The committees, also including the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Corporation on the presidential search, were formed and announced last week by Corporation chair Dana Mead. Soon after the announcement they held their first session, thus officially launching the search for a 16th MIT president.

Mead appointed Champy, chairman of consulting at Perot Systems Corp., to head the Corporation committee following Vest's Dec. 5 announcement of his resignation.

Mead in turn asked Professor Rafael Bras, chair of the faculty, to head the process to select the faculty committee. After receiving approximately 200 responses, faculty officers assembled the full membership of that committee and Jerome Friedman, Institute Professor and professor of physics, was appointed chair.

Members come to these panels with the highest of credentials in their respective professional and academic circles (see for the full list). They include two Nobelists, four Institute Professors and representatives from all five schools at MIT. The lists also include alumni, representatives of several businesses including technology and banking, and members from all over the country.

Champy emphasized last week that the search process will be broad and focus on candidates both within and outside the greater MIT community. "We seek the very best [candidate] so we will rely on input from alumni, students, faculty and people outside the university who have a point of view," he said.

The two panels will meet jointly at least twice a month, possibly more frequently toward the end of the process. Along the way, Champy said, "we will engage the faculty very deeply."

Vest said he would remain in his post until a new president is selected. Champy said the joint search committees "are hopeful we will identify a new president by the fall," but added that there was no pressure to do so.

Formation of a student advisory committee, assigned to provide student perspective to the Corporation and the two selection panels, is also under way.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 14, 2004.

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