Chuck Vest, MIT president 1990–2004, interviewed by journalist John Hockenberry for the MIT150 celebration.

Chuck Vest, MIT president 1990–2004, reflects on his presidency during the MIT150 celebration.

The powerful leadership of a humble man was a central theme of the March 6 memorial service for Charles M. Vest, MIT’s 15th president. Vest, who died of pancreatic cancer in December, was praised for influential decisions ranging from supporting gender equity to establishing OpenCourseWare, an idea that has sparked a learning revolution.

His bold decisions provide leadership lessons for many of the speakers including Institute and academic leaders, former Vice President Al Gore, and Raymond S. Stata ’57, SM ’58, founder of Analog Devices.

Former MIT presidents Paul Gray ’54, SM ’55 and Susan Hockfield praised Vest’s tireless advocacy in Washington. “As president of the National Academy of Engineers, he continued his role as advocate in chief for sound federal policy for education and research,” Hockfield said.

Al Gore, commenting via video, called Vest a good friend and a “true visionary” who was instrumental in advising the Clinton-Gore White House on emerging science and technology, environmental policy, the design of the space program, and the development of the information superhighway.

“Chuck Vest changed the lives of women scientists and engineers worldwide,” Professor Emeritus of Biology Nancy Hopkins reminded the audience. In 1999 when he endorsed the findings of the MIT report on the Status of Women Faculty in Science, which documented unequal treatment, he asked to write a note with the report.

“Chuck wrote, ‘I’ve always believed that contemporary gender discrimination within universities is part reality and part perception. True, but I now understand that reality is by far the greater part of the balance.’ With his two sentences, Chuck had reached from MIT into the White House and obtained a national mandate from the president of the United States,” Hopkins said.

Ray Stata said Vest profoundly changed campus life for students—and he stayed calm even when decisions were contentious. “Chuck’s mild manner masked his profound sense of purpose and his determination to leave MIT an even greater place that he found it,” Stata noted.

In Stata’s own undergraduate days, “student life was a grim experience in many ways, but it didn’t have to be that way,” Stata said. Vest’s support for the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning resulted in a new policy that required first-year students to live on campus, a policy shift that generated much discussion along with changes in the living groups. “The culture of community emerged from this task force where learning to live and living to learn became inseparable,” Stata said.

That decision also contributed to a wave of new construction, another signature of Vest’s legacy. Graduate and undergraduate residences, new research facilities, department consolidations, and a spacious recreation facility resulted.

Vest’s leadership was also evident in the quality of the buildings, Stata said. “’Why not hire Frank Gehry to build an iconic building to symbolize MIT’s commitment to innovation?’ Vest asked. ‘Why don’t we build a student street where students could mingle, socialize, learn, and collaborate?’ … Aren’t we grateful today that he had the courage and foresight to make such a bold commitment to MIT’s future?”

MIT President L. Rafael Reif said he had come to see Chuck Vest as a teacher and “I have become one of his most committed students.” He quoted Vest’s last president’s report:

“Boldness does not come naturally to me…but there are instances when both institutions and individuals must decide whether or not to strike out in new directions or to seize a moment. Boldness [then]… is a simple application of core values at a critical moment in time.”

Learn more about Vest’s MIT leadership, watch memorial service speakers describe his many contributions to MIT, or view his reflections on his presidency in an MIT150 Infinite History interview by journalist John Hockenberry.


Guest blogger: Lydia Krasilnikova ′14, Admissions blogger

Like geese, my family migrates when it gets cold every year, to Miami for New Year’s and a Green Christmas and to Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. I think what we eat at Thanksgiving captures a wonderful picture of our cross-cultural family identity. Thanksgiving dinner this year was borscht with garlic and rye bread, turkey with homemade plum sauce, and farina cake.

Bubble tea

Bubble tea

Over the past semester I asked my family to teach me how to cook the foods I love, and I’ve been trying to make most of them during actual work weeks. I was surprised that they are almost all very easy to make, and that it’s possible to have a real dinner without taking real time away from studying. Most of what I ate freshman year was cereal and skim milk.

In celebration of my new steps toward real adulthood, here are the 42 (plus or minus a few) recipes that encompass most of the foods I love. This blog post is mostly for me but it is also for you, in case you want to learn some fast, diverse recipes to get you through the semester.

30. Bubble tea

If you don’t know what bubble tea is, you will when you get to campus. It is sweetened milk tea with tapioca bubbles. It is addicting. It is sold at the Student Center for $3 a serving.

Effort: 2


  • Tapioca bubbles
  • Honey or fruit preserves
  • Tea
  • Milk
  • Bubble tea straws


1. Buy tapioca bubbles [on Amazon]. I store them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer so they don’t dry out. You can buy fat straws on Amazon as well.

2. Boil water in an electric tea kettle or on the stove, as much as you can imagine you and your friends drinking in one sitting. Add several (three to six) bags of whatever tea you want to drink. When the tea is done steeping, move the pot or the tea kettle to the fridge to cool.

3. Boil water in a pot. Once the water is boiled, add a very small handful of tapioca bubbles for every two people. They will expand in the water.

4. After five minutes, remove the tapioca bubbles from the water and put them in a cup. Cover them in honey or fruit preserves. I think fruit preserves work better than honey, but other people (sample size two) disagree.

5. After a while the tapioca bubbles should have soaked up some of the honey or fruit preserves. Distribute the tea, add milk, and add the tapioca bubbles. Drink with a bubble tea straw.

Real bubble tea is prepared with some powder instead of just tea and milk. I haven’t figured this out yet and I’m probably not going to, because I’m happy with tea and milk, but you might want to.

For the full post on the MIT Admission website and all recipes, begin with Part I.

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Guest Blogger: Debbie Levey, CEE Technical Writer

Relocating from Boston to the new 1916 Cambridge campus solved many of MIT’s problems of cramped classrooms and inadequate lab space. However, students complained loudly about the lack of proper athletic facilities. When President Karl Compton announced plans for a new field house at the 1934 commencement, The Tech reported excitedly that the new building would double the current facilities for track, basketball, wrestling, squash, and other sports.

The brand-new Barbour Field House in 1934

The brand-new Barbour Field House in 1934.

Funded by the estate of MIT benefactor Edmund Dana Barbour, construction on the new Barbour field house began that July under the supervision of Professor Walter Voss of the Building Engineering and Construction Department (old Course 17) and Albert Smith, superintendent of buildings and power.

By fall, students marveled at the new one-story building of yellow brick. At the dedication on October 26, 1934, The Tech described how the new athletic center filled “a long felt need in athletics and at the same time replac[ed] one of the campus eyesores.” Lockers to accommodate 1,000 men was “a distinct enlargement over the previous locker space…. Although the building had no windows, skylights filled every room with soft light.”

The Tech reporter concluded, “The entire building is completely air conditioned and is a far cry from the draughty old building that was the hang-out of the athletes previously.”

Like the rest of campus, the field house adapted to different needs during World War II. From 1943 to 1944, much of the space became a temporary civilian cafeteria while military personnel occupied Walker. Campus maps in the early 1950s label it as the student activities building.

As campus expanded, the Barbour Field House was replaced in 1956 by the Compton Laboratories (Bldg. 26) and the Dorrance Building (Bldg. 16). Demolishing the former Westgate veterans’ housing in the late 1950s provided much more space for athletic fields on West Campus. The new Student Center (W20), dedicated in 1965.

As student interest in sports increased, DuPont Athletic Center opened in October 1959 and, unlike Barbour, included a women’s locker room. In 2002, the new Zesiger Center added an Olympic size swimming pool, fitness center, indoor track and flexible space. Today, the vast majority of MIT students participate in some type of physical activity at varsity, club, intramural, or recreational levels.

Thanks to Robert Doane and Ariel Weinberg of the MIT Museum for information and photos.


The History of Jazz at MIT offers cool music clips and a sketch of history in an interactive timeline. While MIT’s jazz history dates to the 1920s, the arrival in 1963 of Herb Pomeroy, a talented performer and teacher, transformed scattered efforts into a focused jazz program. Pomeroy, who retired in 1985, led the Festival Jazz Ensemble to national prominence with participation at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and other festivals.

Pomeroy’s legacy, celebrated this year, continues today with an active—and innovative—jazz program on campus. “We are not just playing standards, we are playing new, innovative music and breaking new ground,” says Ali Azarbayejani ’88, trumpet.

Here are a few highlights on this interactive timeline created for the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

1955: MIT Jazz Society is founded and quickly hosts a Stan Getz concert on campus.

Paul Padget ’58 recalls Getz originally turned down the offer to play at MIT. Then he heard about the fabulous acoustics at the newly opened Kresge Auditorium—and he called MIT.

“We had about four days’ notice and we were on the phone to everyone. We had volunteers sitting up nights creating posters that were hand-lettered because we were so short of time and money. But the concert was standing room only, and the MIT Jazz Society became established.”

1976: Hear Herb Pomeroy direct “Paper Dragon” by Rob Mounsey, featuring Paul Bangser ’77 on guitar.

1990: Hear a sample from a recording project initiated by Jamshied Sharifi ’83, that produced the first of two acclaimed CDs by the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble.

2001: Rajesh Mehta ’86 and Paul Lovens premiere a new work by Mark Harvey composed for them and Aardvark.

 2013: When jazz great Chick Corea agreed to compose a work for the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble’s 50th birthday this year, it was a salute, in part, to his own MIT experience. As a Chelsea high school junior, Corea came to campus to play played trumpet and piano in one of his first bands—a jazz sextet that he formed with musicians including Joel Karp ’62 and Rich Orr ’62, SM ’63, EE ’69, PhD ’73 trombones, and graduate student Roger Eiss PhD ’67, on trumpet and bass. Corea dedicated the piece to Pomeroy, who offered Corea his first professional club date as the opening act for Pomeroy’s band in a Boston club.

Visit the Jazz timeline, read about the teaching history in Illuminating Passion: 50 Years of Jazz at MIT, and visit the Listening Room’s jazz section for more music.


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JFK relied on MIT experts.

JFK relied on MIT experts.

On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death, we remember the Massachusetts man who inspired—and continues to inspire—the country. Here are a few of Kennedy’s MIT connections.

Centennial Presence

Newly in office, President Kennedy recorded a message in 1961 congratulating MIT on its centennial and addressing the increasingly important role of education in the life of the nation. Recorded in the White House on April 6, Kennedy’s voice was played two days later during MIT’s Centennial celebration. Watch the video with Kennedy’s message against footage of the centennial procession and images of Professor Walt Whitman Rostow, who Kennedy appointed as deputy special assistant to the President for national security affairs, and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner, who served as Kennedy’s special assistant for science and technology.

Kennedy Brought MIT to Washington

Wiesner’s 1994 obituary in The Tech noted his work with the late president in the first sentence and detailed the MIT president’s impact: “As Kennedy’s chief adviser and planner for science issues, he worked on the treaty banning all but underground nuclear tests that was signed by the United States, Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom in 1963….Wiesner returned to the Institute in 1964 shortly after Kennedy’s assassination.”

The 1963 Tech photo shows a flag flown at half mast to honor JFK.

The 1963 Tech photo shows a flag flown at half mast to honor JFK.

The MIT Libraries own a copy of JFK’s inaugural address, embossed with the Great Seal of the United States in gold plus a handwritten message in blue ink: “To James Killian Jr., with appreciation and best wishes, John Kennedy, Christmas 1961.” The presidential letters archive holds a Kennedy letter thanking Killian for agreeing to serve as chair of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Kennedy Scholars

MIT and Harvard announced plans in 2007 to expand the Kennedy Scholarship Fund, a program that has brought some 432 British students to MIT or Harvard for graduate work, including British Labour Party politician David Miliband SM ′90.

Campus Aftermath

According to The Tech’s article published November 26, 1963, MIT classes were cancelled at 3:15 p.m., Friday, November 22, shortly after the assassination. In observance of the day of national mourning proclaimed by President Lyndon Johnson, a memorial convocation was held in Kresge Auditorium Nov. 25. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The Tech, Nov. 26, 1963 . Click for larger.

The Tech, Nov. 26, 1963 . Click for larger.

Immediately after the death of President Kennedy had been announced, Dr. James R. Killian Jr., Chairman of the Corporation, issued the following statement: “Our nation and civilized men over all the world have suffered a catastrophic and incalculable loss. Nothing can mitigate the tragedy of this barbarous event or the overriding sorrow we feel for the family and friends of our late President. But as a great leader and a superbly dedicated man, he would have counseled us to stand steady, to re-affirm our deep commitment to all things noble and sacred in life, and to gather together in strong support of our new President.”

The statement of President Stratton, issued Friday afternoon, read in part: “The assassination of President Kennedy is an enormous tragedy for the United States and the entire free world. This cruel and irrational act has taken from us a truly great President at the height of his powers. All Americans must feel a deep personal sorrow, and our hearts go out to Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy family. We have lost in a difficult hour the leader whose every approach to the great problems that beset us was guided by a keen intelligence and an ennobling vision of the highest aspirations of the American people.”

Undergraduate Reaction

News of the assassination of the President spread quickly among the MIT undergraduate body. Shocked students clustered around radios and television sets, awaiting the grim developments. A staggering load of telephone calls went through the MIT switchboard. Professor Carleton Tucker, administrator of the Institute telephone system, stated that the load was “one and-a-half times any previous peak.”

Were you there that day? Add your memories in the comments below or Facebook or Twitter.


Guest Blogger: Debbie Levey, CEE Technical Writer

Hardware and software are popular.

Hardware and software are popular.

A kindergartener-sized karate uniform, spider plant clippings, unopened containers of Thai food… Proving that someone’s trash becomes someone else’s treasure, thousands of unwanted items find eager new owners every year through MIT’s reuse email lists. Through the lists, the MIT community can give things away; request items; sell, barter or trade; search for housing and roommates; or discuss the mailing lists and related philosophy.

Everything is free—and alumni are invited to join.

A two-person cow costume, vinyl records, bubble wrap…. Computer equipment (hardware and software) shows up most frequently, followed by office and lab supplies, household goods, and leftover food.

An East Campus floor-to-ceiling wooden obelisk, enough scrap lumber for a small tree house… Donors describe the item, mention how and where to claim it, and the size and weight, if necessary.

Office supplies and equipment make the list.

Office supplies and equipment make the list.

Some donors choose a recipient, while others award it to the first respondent. Some leave the goods in a designated place for everyone to pick over. When items have been claimed, the list hears about it.

To avoid any suspicions as you lug a computer or bagful of items out of an office, rules strongly recommend that you “keep a copy of the reuse message in case you run into the Campus Police.”

Mike Jacknis ’98, MEng ’01 started the email reuse lists in 1994. “The Institute disposes of a large quantity of merchandise of all sorts, which is still usable, either for its original intended purpose or for some other purpose (hacking, parts, education, etc.) There has got to be someone out there interested in your stuff, no matter what it is!” he says.

Terri (Iuzzolino) Matsakis ’93 next took over responsibility for the list. When her thesis work became overwhelming, she posted the list itself on reuse, where Garry Zacheiss ’00, now senior IT manager at MIT Information Services & Technology, and Dan Kamalić ’99 claimed it. Now she largely runs it again, with Zacheiss and Kamalić as backup.

Matsakis noted, “Sometimes pet owners trying to find new homes for gerbils, mice, or hamsters are surprised when they get questions like, ‘Is it tasty and good for eating?’” Now some owners specify that they’re giving away pets, not potential snake food. Basically, though, people are welcome to post anything as long as it’s legally transferrable and available in the Greater Boston area, she said.

For more information or to join any of the lists, send mail to or get more information on the mailman listing.

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Answers are coming in to the large questions raised by the task force charged with reinventing residential education at MIT. And the first results are a series of interactive graphics that captures the nearly 200 ideas submitted to the Idea Bank by faculty, students, staff, and alumni. No surprise—alumni were, by far, the most enthusiastic participants.

future-MIT_10-18-13_2What can you do?

  • Alumni can go to the Future of MIT Education website and mouse over the circles to get a stream of ideas or demographic data on who has submitted ideas.
  • Browse Trending Data or explore ideas by these key areas: global implications of edX ; a new financial model for education; and facilities for the future.
  • Follow @FutureMIT on Twitter for daily insights.
  • Haven’t shared your thoughts yet? Email the task force leaders at

In an MIT News story, President L. Rafael Reif outlined his intent: “To stay true to our educational values, we must seize the opportunity to reimagine what we do and how we do it … We are in the midst of an educational revolution.”

Expect a preliminary report later this fall. Meanwhile the task force is soliciting ideas from a Corporation Advisory Group and an Alumni Advisory Group, chaired by John Jarve ’78, SM ’79, president of the MIT Alumni Association.


Love them or hate them, college rankings draw frenzied attention each fall. In fact Boston magazine felt compelled to add their judgment when MIT and Harvard recently beat each other in different rankings. Who’s the best, they queried?

MIT's domeBut first, let’s set the stage.

In the US News & World Report rankings, MIT claimed the top spot for an undergraduate engineering program at a doctoral institution and the #2 among undergraduate business programs. MIT ranked #1 in selectivity and shared the top spot for reputation among college presidents and among high school guidance counselors. MIT did, however, rank seventh overall against Harvard’s second place.

More US News firsts:

  • MIT engineering programs that earned top spots included aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering; chemical engineering; computer engineering; electrical/electronic/communications engineering; materials engineering; and mechanical engineering.
  • At Sloan, two departments earned top billing: productions/operations management and quantitative analysis/methods.

Boston magazine jumped into the fray, pointing out that MIT was named the best university in the world, for the second year, in the QS World University Rankings list, an annual global report. MIT earned a perfect score on assessments including academic reputation, employer reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, and citations per faculty. So with that, Boston seems to tilt toward MIT.

  • In the same gush of ratings, Forbes published their America’s Top Colleges assessment with MIT at #6 among research universities and #10 overall.
  • More good news: the 2013 World University Web Ranking of the Top 200 Colleges and Universities in the world puts MIT at #1.
  • Washington Monthly, which counts criteria such as percentage of need-based Pell grants, ROTC, and community service hours, puts MIT at #11.

If you are interested in how the US Department of Education views the Institute, then check the federal MIT scorecard, which lists net cost, median borrowing, and our (very high) graduation rates (92.9 percent within six years).

Coming up in October: The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, which named MIT as the world’s #2 university in 2013, publishes their new list October 2.

Curious about graduate rankings? The most recent US News graduate school ratings were covered in spring Slice post titled “The Streak Continues.”




President Reif at convocation

President Reif greets the Class of 2017 and their families.

Students entering MIT this week range from the 1,116 first-year students enrolling in the Class of 2017 to a cadre of physicians and health-care workers beginning MBA programs to learn management skills for the changing health-services field.

President L. Rafael Reif welcomed first-year students and their families to the campus community at an Aug. 29 convocation ceremony and evoked his own first days at MIT as he assured them they would soon find their own sense of home on campus.

“When I first arrived here, I knew almost nobody,” the president said. “My home was a long way away, in Venezuela. I felt excited to join this amazing place—but I had plenty of worries: Would my work be good enough? Would my English be good enough? Would I fit in? … But very soon, I came to feel that MIT was my home—and that this community was like an extended family.”

Learn about the Class of 2017, with a record low admission rate of 8.2 percent, through student profiles and this demographic snapshot:

• Male 55%, female 45%

• US citizens and permanent residents 92%; states represented: 48

• International citizens 8%; countries represented: 52

• Ethnicity: African American 7%; Asian American 29%; Caucasian 39%; Hispanic/Latino 15%; Native American 1%; and Other/No Response 1%

• Public school graduates: 67%; 865 different high schools represented

• Greatest distance traveled: ~10,500 mi from Melbourne, Australia

Read an earlier Slice post on those admitted to the Class of 2017 and get more facts from the MIT Admissions office Class of 2017 page.

The looming changes spurred by Affordable Health Care Act are inspiring health professionals to expand their management skills to work effectively within the changing health care system, according to Sloan press release:

“I strongly believe that the healthcare field is the next economic ‘boom,’ similar to the boom in the ‘90s and mobile communication over this past decade,” says Alan Christophe, a Roslyn, NY, native who spent about three years working in the pharmaceutical and health care industries before enrolling in MIT Sloan’s MBA program. “Healthcare is the most fragmented industry in the U.S. and I believe it is fragmented because of management deficiencies in the private and public sector.”

Learn more health care and management at Sloan.

And what advice does MIT Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill ’86 offer to all new students?

“First, do something that you have never done before as this is the time to get into the habit of trying new things. Second, you must find some activity that you can do regularly that recharges you. It might be playing a musical instrument or playing your sport, going for a run or cooking a meal, participating in a club or just hanging out with friends, but regularly doing something that relaxes and balances you is critical in the intense MIT environment. Otherwise, stay connected with your friends and advisors, and have fun!”


Guest Blogger: Miri Skolnik, Assistant Dean, Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming

MIT sophomore Paola Ruiz is majoring in materials science and engineering

MIT sophomore Paola Ruiz is majoring in materials science and engineering

Sophomore Paola Ruiz is a long way from home. Growing up in a low-income neighborhood of Los Angeles, Ruiz was not just the first one in her family to go to college, she was also the first to graduate from high school. Being the valedictorian in a graduating high school class of almost 2,000 students, Ruiz was clearly intellectually worthy of a university like MIT. But her family had never heard of it before. In fact, when she first told her Dad that she was accepted, his first question was, “What is MIT?” After some explanation, his next question was, “Where is Massachusetts?”

Like Ruiz, many first-generation students are pioneers in their family, navigating the uncharted territory of college. For these resourceful students, breaking new ground in the world of higher education offers the key to upward mobility, not just for themselves, but for their entire families. As Ruiz states, “having a college degree, particularly from MIT, will allow me to help my family, and ensure that we have more choices and better opportunities and an easier life than what my parents had.”

First generation students in the peer mentorship program, holding a poster of MIT’s president, L.Rafael Reif, who is also the first gen in his family to graduate from college.

First generation students in the peer mentorship program, holding a poster of MIT’s president, L.Rafael Reif, who is also the first gen in his family to graduate from college.

First-generation students, defined as those who will be the first generation in their families to graduate from a four-year university, comprise about 15 percent of MIT’s student body.

Over the past two years, a new program called the First Generation Project, has provided these students with a sense of community, a chance to network, to share advice, and to raise awareness about the common experiences of first generation students. Among those common experiences are managing the two worlds of home and university, worlds that may present competing demands and senses of responsibility. Another common challenge is deciding about majors and careers when there is no precedent for such decisions in their families. Learn more about the First Generation Project.

Are you a first generation alumnus/a who is willing to share your experiences and professional path? If so, please email Miri Skolnik—she’d like to talk to you.