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Former MIT president Charles Vest dies

Posted by Roy Greene  December 13, 2013 01:34 PM

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Charles M. Vest, who as MIT’s president from 1990 to 2004 led the college through a period of dramatic change and growth, has died, the school announced today. He was 72.

In a statement, MIT said Vest died Thursday night of pancreatic cancer in his home in
Washington. A mechanical engineer by training, Vest was president of the National Academy of Engineering from 2007 until earlier this year.

“Personally and professionally, Chuck Vest set an exceptional standard of intellectual clarity, moral courage, and generosity of spirit,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, in a statement.

Reif cited Vest’s vision and values in the creation of MIT OpenCourseWare — “the simple, elegant, unprecedented idea that MIT should make all of its course materials available online to anyone in the world, free.

“Thanks to Chuck’s leadership, OCW has become a source of outstanding content for 150 million global learners, the model for the global OpenCourseWare movement, and the foundation and inspiration for everything we are striving to achieve with edX and MITx,” Reif said.

In the statement, MIT also said:

Consistent with Vest’s optimistic interest in the expansion of knowledge, MIT’s research enterprise grew substantially during his tenure. Vest spearheaded expansions into fields including brain and cognitive sciences (with the establishment of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Picower Center for Learning and Memory); nanotechnology (with the creation of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies); genomic medicine (with the founding of the Broad Institute); biological engineering; engineering systems; and new media, among others.

Click here for MIT’s full statement on Vest.

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