Hockfield named president of MIT

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — University Provost Susan Hockfield was named the 16th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today after the school’s governing corporation approved her appointment this morning.

Hockfield said she plans to assume her new post in early December. Her successor will be the fourth major Yale administrator named in 12 months.

A neuroscience professor and former dean of Yale’s Graduate School, Hockfield has held the position of Yale’s chief academic and financial officer since January 2003.

In brief remarks at a community meeting at MIT this afternoon–during which students, faculty and staff in a packed hall gave her multiple standing ovations–Hockfield described her vision for her new school.

“I want MIT to be the dream of every child who wants to make the world a better place,” she said.

Hockfield’s name was submitted to the corporation’s executive committee for initial approval two weeks ago, MIT Corporation Chair Dana Mead said. It went before the full corporation today. Both votes were unanimous, Mead said.

The institution’s core values–the pursuit of truth, integrity and meritocracy– attracted Hockfield to MIT, Hockfield said.

In a conversation with the News and MIT newspapers, the president-designate cited challenges she will face in her new post: increased competition in the sciences from other schools, a lack of funding for physical sciences, and the conflict between national security and universities’ ability to bring in foreign scholars. She also acknowledged that like Yale, MIT has faced budget restrictions due to the general economic decline.

Hockfield pledged to continue the school’s traditional leadership in setting the United States’ scientific agenda.

The provost’s colleagues praised MIT’s choice.

Yale President Richard Levin said Hockfield has been an “outstanding” administrator at Yale.

Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper said his work with Hockfield has been “productive, enormously satisfying and fun.” Duke President Richard Brodhead, the former dean of Yale College, praised her work ethic, ability to learn and leadership skills.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he thought Hockfield would fill her new position “more perfectly” than any other candidate.

“The presidency of MIT is, perhaps, the most visible and significant position in higher education in the sciences and engineering,” Salovey said in an e-mail to the News.

The leaders of MIT’s eight-month search cited her presence, scientific credentials and experiences in top posts at Yale in explaining their selection.

Hockfield will be MIT’s first female president and its first president with a background in the life sciences.

When a new provost is named, that person will be the University’s third in less than two years. Deputy Provost Charles Long said the University can “absorb changes in leadership quite easily,” but predicted a new provost will be named quickly.

“This is not a job that you can leave empty,” Long said.

Hockfield told the News she plans to remain active as Yale’s provost until her successor is named. She will be “as involved in the transition as anyone thinks will be helpful” while spending significant time on background work for her new post, she said.

She said her family will likely move to Cambridge in November.

Provost Susan Hockfield (left), who will leave Yale in December to become president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, watches as outgoing MIT President Charles Vest speaks at a community meeting in Cambridge, Mass.  Aug. 26. Vest gave Hockfield the book she is holding, which the president he succeeded gave him.
Tom Sullivan
Provost Susan Hockfield (left), who will leave Yale in December to become president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, watches as outgoing MIT President Charles Vest speaks at a community meeting in Cambridge, Mass. Aug. 26. Vest gave Hockfield the book she is holding, which the president he succeeded gave him.

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