M.I.T. Makes Yale Provost First Woman to Be Its Chief
BR> August 27, 2004
BR> CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Aug. 26 - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday named Susan Hockfield, provost of Yale University, as its 16th president. She succeeds Charles M. Vest, who announced his retirement in December after 14 years in the post.
BR> Dr. Hockfield, a 53-year-old neuroscientist, is the first woman and the first person from the life sciences to achieve the presidency at M.I.T., a traditionally male-dominated university that built its reputation on engineering.
BR> She said in an interview that she hoped to strengthen the spirit of collaboration among M.I.T.'s schools, especially as the boundaries between biological and engineering sciences continue to blur.
BR> Dr. Hockfield said she also planned to continue the university's tradition of being a significant voice in national policy in science, technology and education, and of lobbying for additional money for scientific research. Students have been driven away from the physical sciences in the last decade, she said, because the government has "underinvested" in those disciplines compared with its spending on the biological sciences.
BR> She also hopes to bolster math and science education in kindergarten through 12th grade, subjects in which she feels the United States lags behind other countries.
BR> "The big challenge has to do with how the nation views science and technology, the investment in research," she said.
BR> The appointment furthers a marked shift at the university since 1999, when it issued a report, undertaken by female faculty members, concluding that women there suffered from widespread if unintentional discrimination. In 2001, nine universities, including M.I.T., Harvard and Yale, pledged to work together toward gender parity.
BR> Members of the presidential search committee and the M.I.T. Corporation, the university's board of trustees, said that in Dr. Hockfield, they had chosen the best candidate for the job with little regard to sex.
BR> The significance of the selection was not lost on the campus, however.
BR> "It could not have been imaginable to any of us that this could have happened," said Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology who undertook the sex discrimination report with 16 colleagues in 1994. "It's a milestone for sure. It's something you really have to take the day off and sit back and say, 'This is what social change looks like.' ''
BR> Dr. Hockfield joined Yale's faculty in 1985 and was dean of its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1998 to 2002. Before joining Yale, she worked at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester and graduate degrees from Georgetown University School of Medicine.
BR> She will assume her new post in early December, at an institution with a $5.1 billion endowment and 20,000 students and staff members.