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Grimson to assume key role in fundraising campaign; Schmidt to serve as acting provost

In new capacity, outgoing chancellor will ensure that faculty and student priorities are reflected in the coming capital campaign.
From left: W. Eric Grimson and Martin Schmidt
From left: W. Eric Grimson and Martin Schmidt
Photos: Dominick Reuter; Tony Rinaldo

Chancellor W. Eric Grimson will assume a key role in MIT’s upcoming fundraising campaign, President L. Rafael Reif announced today, working closely with the Institute’s faculty and students to ensure that their needs and priorities are reflected in what is expected to be a multiyear, multibillion-dollar effort.

In the same letter to the MIT community, Reif also announced that Martin Schmidt, associate provost and professor of electrical engineering, will become acting provost on Nov. 1, following Provost Chris Kaiser’s return to the faculty. Reif noted Schmidt’s previous involvement, as associate provost since 2008, in the challenging allocation of physical space on campus; in co-leading the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force, which shaped MIT’s response to the global financial crisis; and in developing and improving MIT’s plans for the future of Kendall Square.

Schmidt “has resolved countless complex situations with his unflappable wisdom,” Reif wrote. “When the White House asked MIT to help drive the national Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, Marty served as our faculty lead, organizing our efforts on campus and coordinating research and policy development with institutions and firms across the country. Most recently, he drew on his insights as a member of MIT’s commission on Production in the Innovation Economy (PIE) and his experience as an entrepreneur to help shape and launch our new Innovation Initiative.”

Grimson, the Bernard Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering, will assume the new, ad hoc position of “Chancellor for Academic Advancement,” reflecting his key role in making the case for MIT’s fundraising priorities with alumni and donors around the world. The new position will exist for the duration of the Institute’s upcoming capital campaign.

In his letter, Reif noted that the campaign will succeed only if it is deeply rooted in the aspirations of MIT faculty and students — a goal he said Grimson is uniquely qualified to achieve.

“After nearly three decades on our faculty — including extensive fundraising experience as head of our largest department, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science — Eric is superbly prepared to gather, distill and speak for the interests of faculty in the Campaign,” Reif wrote. “An MIT PhD who has taught more than 10,000 MIT undergraduates and supervised nearly 50 doctoral candidates, he also speaks with feeling and authority on the needs of MIT students. As we build the support essential for MIT’s future, his easy rapport with our Corporation members and alumni will be indispensable. Eric will report directly to me, as I will count on him as a central advisor on the Campaign’s shape and strategy.” 

As MIT’s chancellor since 2011, Grimson has been responsible for graduate and undergraduate education, student life, student services, and other areas that impact student experience. Along with the provost, MIT’s chancellor advises the president and participates in strategic planning, faculty appointments, resource development, and decisions on Institute resources and buildings.

In his letter, Reif thanked Grimson for his service as chancellor and noted several key achievements of his tenure as the Institute’s senior student affairs official.

“He strengthened our support for students in practical ways, through programs like ‘MIT Together,’ campus discussions on stress, and extending Freshman Orientation to address issues of academic and personal pressure,” Reif wrote. “He was an early advocate for improving MIT’s ‘ecosystem’ for student entrepreneurs and has argued persuasively that coming campus improvements must include a variety of maker spaces and innovation sandboxes. He has also championed MITx and helped guide it step by step until we created the Office of Digital Learning last spring.”

Grimson says he is particularly pleased by his work as chancellor to strengthen support for the Institute’s students — including resources for personal support, and in identifying and removing barriers to would-be student entrepreneurs — and his work supporting MITx in its infancy. But he adds that he hopes to support the Institute in a similarly substantive way in his new role.

“This fundraising campaign will be one of the most important things that MIT will undertake over the next five years,” Grimson told MIT News. “I see my role as twofold: gaining the sustained input of faculty and students as we imagine the future of MIT, and ensuring that the resources are here for us to grow the next generation of leaders. I hope, in this new role, to root this campaign in the aspirations of MIT’s faculty and students, and in so doing, to keep the campaign connected to the heart of the Institute.”

Grimson noted that fundraising was central to his six years as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). In that capacity, he dedicated a week every summer to visits with MIT alumni and donors in Northern California, in addition to regular travel around the world to meet with the Institute’s friends and supporters.

“I’ve spent the last 10 years working closely with Resource Development, traveling around the country and the world to spread the message of MIT,” Grimson said. He notes that as a result of this fundraising, one-third of entering PhD students had EECS-funded doctoral fellowships by the time he stepped down as department head.

Reif asked in his letter for insights and suggestions from the MIT community to help identify the best candidates for the Institute’s next chancellor. All correspondence sent by email ( or letter (Room 3-208) will be treated as confidential.

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