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MIT president announces plans to step down

February 16, 2012
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The first woman and the first biologist to lead the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced Thursday that she plans to step down.

Susan Hockfield, 60, said in a statement that she will stay on until a new president takes over. She did not give specifics about her future plans.

"While I expect new intellectual adventures ahead, nothing will compare to the exhilaration of the world-changing accomplishments that we produced together," she said.

During her tenure, the university launched several initiatives, including the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, where scientists and engineers work side by side to find breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. The prestigious school also launched research initiatives into energy, the environment and manufacturing.

Also, MIT's endowment, although it took a hit during the global financial crisis, has grown 65 percent during Hockfield's tenure -- from $5.9 billion to $9.7 billion as of last June.

Hockfield said in a letter to the MIT community that she had thought carefully about the timing of her departure and that the momentum built by the university in the past seven years makes for a good opportunity for a smooth transition.

The university is about to start a major new fundraising campaign.

"The momentum of all that we have accomplished has tempted me to stay on to see our many efforts bear their full fruit," she said in the statement. "... I have concluded that it would be best for the institute to begin this next chapter with new leadership."

Hockfield is MIT's 16th president, and has served since December 2004. She came to MIT from Yale University, where she was provost after five years as dean of graduate studies.

The university will put together a search committee for a new president. MIT's governing body, the MIT Corporation, will elect the new president by majority vote.

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