Gray discusses his decision to leave position
[WSBy Andrew L. Fish
"I'm not enthusiastic about instant reflections," said MIT President Paul E. Gray '54 when asked about his tenure in office. Gray believed that "wiser heads will look back" and determine how he performed in office.
"I came in [to office] thinking that 10 years was about right," Gray explained. If a leader has not accomplished something in 10 years, he will probably not achieve it in four or five more years, Gray said. Also, it is important to bring "fresh energy" to the administration every so often.
Except for two years in the army, Gray has been at MIT continuously since he was a freshman in 1950. Before becoming President, he served 9 years as chancellor, a post created for him as a "deputy" to the president. His total time as chancellor and president will be 19 years -- "a third of my life," Gray noted. He believed it was time to move on to something else.
As Chairman, Gray said he will continue to spend "a third to a half of [his] time raising funds for MIT." But he emphasized that the President was the chief executive officer of MIT and that chairman was not an administrative officer. While the chairman "motivates and coordinates," he is not in the chain of command, Gray said.
But the MIT Chairman is a full time employee of the Institute and is therefore more active than chairmen at other schools, Gray said.
Gray encouraged diversity
"I believe Paul Gray has been a great leader for this institution," said Provost John M. Deutch '61. "I believe that his accomplishments as President will stand the test of time in the way MIT developed," he commented.
"I think Paul Gray is not widely recognized for his ability to foster diversity," even though he deserves to be, Deutch said. He fostered intellectual diversity by encouraging study in the social sciences and humanities as well as in science and engineering. Gray also encouraged alternative methods of learning, like work in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.
Gray also brought about a "change in the [MIT] community from traditional, white, East Coast males to a much wider range of gender, race, geographical, [and] cultural heritage," Deutch said. This diversity marks MIT as being able to deal with the greater complexity of the world, Deutch said.
Gray was also concerned about creating diversity in undergraduate life, Deutch noted. He paid long overdue attention to "MIT's principle business -- the the education of undergraduates.
There are "no individuals who I have encountered in my life that I respect more than Paul Gray," Deutch said.
Deutch said he had not thought out what issues will face the next president, or what attributes he should have. He said it was "premature" to ask if he was interested in the position.
Gray "took risks"
Dean for Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 believed that Gray's Presidency has been a "continuation in the best sense" of the set of directions he started when he was in the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs. In the ODSA Gray, among other things, worked for establishing the main features of freshman pass/fail grading and argued for increased minority and women admissions, she said. As associate provost, Gray "took risks" to help found the Experimental Studies Group and the UROP program, MacVicar said. Also, Gray worked for many of the "best features" of the undergraduate program, including freshman advising and the construction of on-campus housing.
Gray's accomplishments are "not just his ten years as president, but a summing up of the direction" he steered MIT toward over his life at the school, MacVicar said. He `'intimately knew" the educational side of MIT, as well as research role, and this was important in giving leadership to Institute, she added.
On the down side, MacVicar said Gray has not been successful in getting "any of us" to value time for reflection. "We all take too many credits and have too many meetings."
Given the groundwork for reform that has been laid in the last five years, Gray's successor will have to be "comfortable with change and have a very keen sense of the strengths and traditions one wants to preserve," MacVicar said.
Professor Arthur C. Smith called Gray "a close personal friend for a long time." He said Gray "has given a great deal to this Institution both before and during his presidency." Smith said Gray showed an "interest in students that has been important to this institution." Gray presided over "a period when the Institute has been healthy, and he has done very well."
Smith said he could not list the qualities the next president should have, since MIT is "going to get a person, not a thing." "It's a hard job finding someone" with the right qualities to be president, he noted.
Gray was budget expert
Associate Provost S. Jay Keyser said Gray "did a terrific job." "His understanding of the MIT budget was unparalleled."
"I was constantly impressed -- he was always on top of things," Keyser said. "He really understands MIT."
Keyser also praised Gray's "leadership in recruiting underrepresented minorities," which was important as "a role model for the rest of the country." He believed Gray's successor should be concerned with "how we deal with the consequences of technology" on society.
Professor Vera Kistiakowsky said it is "clear that [Gray] has done very well at improving the financial base of the Institute." But she said some of MIT's methods "have raised concern about the impact MIT could have in Cambridge," especially with the development of University Park.
Kistiakowsky was also critical of the "active lobbying on part of administration for more Department of Defense research" funding. She argued that DOD funding does not have positive effect of education and research at MIT. Also, the ad hoc Committee on the Military Impact on Campus Research was "essentially killed" by the structure given to it. Also, under Gray there has been no follow up on the Smullin committee, which examined the role of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. These issues were "shoved under the rug" during Gray's tenure, she said.
While some hail Gray as an "education president" and education reform has received a "great deal of publicity," she noted that some have expressed concern about the changes. Kistiakowsky called the alteration of the undergraduate curriculum educational change rather than educational reform. "Reform implies improvement," she said, and that has not clearly happened.
Kistiakowsky believed MIT should "look for somebody who clearly is good with dealing with the financial aspects of keeping" MIT running. The new president should have "a broad understanding of education" and aid "a provost and deans who support a really good program of educational change," she said. The president should also "look for a broad base of research" for the Institute.