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Vest is elected NAE president

Will deliver Commencement address, then head for Washington, DC
President Emeritus Charles M. Vest
President Emeritus Charles M. Vest
Photo / Justin Knight

President Emeritus Charles M. Vest has been elected to a six-year term as president of the National Academy of Engineering, effective July 1.

"Engineering is at the core of addressing fundamental challenges to the U.S. economy, environment, health, security, and way of life in the 21st century," Vest said in an April 26 statement on the future of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). 

"As an independent organization of nearly 2,000 of the nation's most accomplished engineers charged to provide the federal government with objective, informed advice on technological matters, the NAE can and will play an important role in securing our nation's future," Vest wrote.

Vest will deliver the 2007 Commencement address at MIT before assuming his new NAE leadership role.

The NAE is part of the National Academies, which also include the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. These independent, nonprofit institutions serve as advisers to government and the public on issues related to science, engineering and medicine. NAE's membership consists of the nation's premier engineers, who are elected by their peers for their distinguished achievements.

The NAE president is a full-time employee of the organization at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., and also serves as the vice chair of the National Research Council, the principal research arm of the National Academies.

Vest served as MIT's president from 1990 through 2004. During that time, "he worked to strengthen federal-university-industry relations and undertook a number of initiatives to bring education and research issues to broader public attention," according to the NAE.

Selected as a member of the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, which completed its report in 2005, Vest brought a strong science and engineering background to the analysis. He led a U.S. Department of Energy task force on the future of science programs in 2002-2003 and chaired a presidential advisory commission on the redesign of the International Space Station in 1992-1994. Vest was vice chair of the Council on Competitiveness for eight years, is a former chair of the Association of American Universities, and serves on the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Vest was elected to the NAE in 1993 "for technical and educational contributions to holographic interferometry and leadership as an educator," and he currently serves on the NAE Council.

Vest earned a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University in 1963. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1964 and 1967, respectively, from the University of Michigan, where he later held the positions of dean of engineering, provost and vice president for academic affairs. He is the recipient of 10 honorary doctoral degrees.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 2, 2007 (download PDF).

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