Edward Oswald Vetter '42, a former commerce undersecretary in President Ford's administration and an energetic life member emeritus of the MIT Corporation, died March 9 at the age of 88.
Born on Oct. 20, 1920, in Rochester, N.Y., to German immigrant parents, Vetter graduated from MIT in 1942 with a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, Vetter joined the Army, where he was eventually promoted to major. His professional career took him to Standard Oil of California as a production engineer and then to Texas Instruments, where he retired in 1975 as the chief financial officer. He later entered government, serving as the undersecretary of commerce in the Ford administration, energy advisor to the governor of Texas and chairman of the Texas Department of Commerce.
Vetter was elected a term member of the MIT Corporation in 1973, reelected in 1978, and elected a life member in 1983. As president of the Alumni Association, he served as an ex officio member from 1976 to 1977. In 1977, he was a recipient of the Bronze Beaver Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Alumni Association for distinguished service.
Paul Gray, MIT president emeritus and professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, remembered Vetter as someone fiercely loyal to MIT and possessing the fun-loving charm of his adopted state of Texas. "By the time I got to know him in 1971, you'd have thought he was a Texan all his life," Gray said.
Joseph G. Gavin Jr. '41, remembers rowing with Vetter when both were members of the varsity squad as undergraduates. A fellow life member emeritus of the Corporation, Gavin said the Dallas-based Vetter was a great supporter of MIT. "He was one of those forthright people who called a spade a spade. He was a real Texan and I remained a damn Yankee," he said. But "he was always there when the Institute needed something."
Vetter participated on numerous Corporation committees, including more than a decade of service on both the Executive and Membership Committees. He served as chair of the visiting committees for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the Department of Nuclear Engineering, and Sponsored Research; he was also a member of the visiting committees for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and for the Libraries. Vetter was a member of the Development Committee, an ex officio member of the Corporation Joint Advisory Committee on Institute-Wide Affairs, and the chair of the Corporation's ad hoc Committee on Information Transfer.
"He certainly was a great addition to the corporation for his knowledge and insight," said Emily "Paddy" Wade '45, a Corporation life member emeritus.
Vetter is preceded in death by his wife, Mary Brite Vetter, and daughter, Mary Patricia. He is survived by his loving wife, Ann Wallace Vetter; his three daughters, Judy Vetter, Sally Vetter and Kathleen Jenkins; a grandson, Taylor Vetter Jenkins; and other extended family.
Contributions in his memory may be sent to Southwestern Medical Foundation to Support Research for Macular Degeneration, 2305 Cedar Springs Rd., Suite 150, Dallas, Texas 75201. Resolutions on his death will be presented at the meeting of the Corporation in June.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 18, 2009 (download PDF).