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Byers to retir in 1987

By Andrew Bein

Robert M. Byers Sr., director of the MIT News Office, plans to retire in two years. The search for a replacement will be completed "within the next couple of months," according to Kathryn W. Lombardi, executive assistant to the president and manager of Campus Information Services.

Byers has served for 15 years as director. He was assistant director for 10 years before that. He plans to officially retire in June 1987.

Byers described his and his successor's responsibility for "managing the interactions between the outside news media and the university."

The position "is one of the key university public relations jobs in the country," Lombardi said. "Over 200 applications have been received, and we continue to get inquiries." The applications have come "from the media, from universities and from the government."

They will be looking for a number of different qualifications in applicants, Lombardi said. These qualities include "experience in either print journalism or broadcast journalism, ... managing information for a complex organization [and] familiarity with issues regarding science and technology," she explained.

Byers said one of the problems that complicates the search process is that the director must be "somebody who has an interest in, and knowledge of, electronic journalism as well as print."

"Our sense is the people from the print media may have a bit more of what we are looking for," Lombardi said. But there is "a feeling that MIT has not been putting enough emphasis on electronic journalism. We're not entirely sure we'll find all these qualities in just one person."

"We're taking the time to find the person, it's not like there is a void there. We're just in the beginning stages of interviewing," she said.

President Paul E. Gray '54 and Vice President Constantine B. Simonides will also take part in the decision, as will members of the administration who will work with the new director, Lombardi said.

"I will be making a recommendation to the vice president and the president and I am consulting with others during the process," she continued. "I will be interviewing every person. Walter Milne [assistant to the Chairman of the Corporation and to the President] is also involved."

The News Office has been very successful with the press over the years, according to Lombardi. "MIT has a very good reputation in terms of credibility. We don't make the press pay attention unless we really have something to say," she said.

For the future, "we plan to take a little more initiative on broader institutional issues that we feel deserve attention," Lombardi added.

The News Office could play a part in attracting a more diverse student body.

Lombardi said there are "different ways to talk about the kind of student we're looking for. We want solid math and science, but we do not want them all to major in electrical engineering and computer science. High school students may not have a full idea of the kind of range we offer. We do have to get out the idea of what we offer at MIT."

Byers plans to retire on June 30, 1987. "That's when I will be 60," he said. "The University has an early retirement program intended to encourage people to retire at age 60," he added.

"There have only been three news directors at MIT since 1926," Byers said. "One served for 30 years."

Byers will be "working on special long-term projects, rather than the day to day operation of the News Office," after this summer, Lombardi said.