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Letter regarding new roles for Grimson, Schmidt

The following email was sent today to the Institute community by MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

To the members of the MIT community,

I write to let you know about two important changes in leadership.

Chancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson

First, I am delighted to announce that, to meet the ambitious goals of MIT's upcoming fundraising campaign, Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD '80 is taking on the ad hoc role of Chancellor for Academic Advancement. The coming Campaign will succeed only if it is rooted in the needs and aspirations of MIT faculty and students. 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. 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.

Making the case for MIT's fundraising priorities with alumni and donors around the world will require extensive travel. Since Eric's current student-centered role as Chancellor demands an on-campus presence, we will immediately begin a search to fill the existing position of chancellor. My first step will be to reach out to faculty, students and staff for guidance and ideas.

I am deeply grateful to Eric for the wisdom and care he brought to the Chancellorship. 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. 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. Together with Professor John Guttag, Eric offered one of the first MOOCs on MITx, with nearly 200,000 registrants, and he is still actively involved in refining the digital delivery of 6.00 both externally and internally. I know that his public commitment to our digital initiatives has been instrumental in building broader faculty support.

As we move to find a new chancellor, if you have insights about the role or suggestions that will help identify the best candidates, I hope you will let me know by email ( or letter (Room 3-208). I will of course treat any guidance I receive as confidential. The deans for Graduate Education, Student Life and Undergraduate Education will continue to report to Eric until a successor is in place.

Acting Provost Marty Schmidt

Second, I am very grateful that Associate Provost Marty Schmidt SM '83, PhD '88 has agreed to fill the role of Acting Provost, as Provost Chris Kaiser returns to his interests in teaching and research. A member of the faculty since 1988, Marty has served as associate provost since 2008; while gaining broad exposure to MIT's internal workings and external relationships, he has resolved countless complex situations with his unflappable wisdom. He has handled with fairness and sensitivity one of the most difficult matters in the life of any university – the allocation of physical space. He co-led the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force that played a key role in MIT's response to the global financial crisis, and his insight and leadership have been vital in developing and improving MIT's plans for the future of Kendall Square. 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.

Marty will assume the role of Acting Provost on November 1 and serve until a permanent provost is named.
* * *

Please join me in thanking both Eric and Marty for their dedication, thoughtfulness and readiness to rise to many difficult challenges in service to our community.


L. Rafael Reif

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