The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 56.0°F | Overcast

Moses Named New Provost

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Dean of the School of Engineering Joel Moses PhD '67 was confirmed as the Institute's next provost by the Corporation Executive Committee last night. President Charles M. Vest announced Tuesday afternoon his intention to nominate Moses to the position.

Moses succeeds Mark S. Wrighton, who is stepping down today to become the chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis.

The appointment fills the first of several gaps in the senior administration, which include the dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, dean of the graduate school, and associate provost of the arts. However, "no other positions will be announced until further into the summer," Vest said.

Moses "will be the next in a line of distinguished scientists and engineers who have served superbly in this important position," said Vest. His "deep knowledge of MIT, varied educational background, eclectic intellectual interests, respect for faculty culture, and thoughtful understanding of the current forces for change will make him an outstanding institutional leader for our times."

Moses brings a broad educational background and successful computer science and engineering career to the position. "For me, the magic lies in the endless opportunities to work with and to come to know individuals of the highest caliber across all the disciplines and ranks," Moses said.

In the 1940s, Vannevar Bush '16 promoted "the vision of federal support for university research and, implicitly, for the education of undergraduate and graduate students for the good of the county," said Moses. "That compact is now being questioned."

"In these trying times for universities, MIT's goal should be to go beyond preserving as much of the current system as possible," he said. "We should strive to create a new and more flexible institution that can serve as a model for others for the coming decades."

Appointment received positively

Several faculty members and administrators positively received Moses' appointment. Calling it "a good appointment," Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt cited Moses' broad educational background as a beneficial quality. Moses has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale, received his doctorate in the School of Science, and spent a year at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.

Next fall, Moses will co-teach a seminar on the architecture of computer systems. "Part of the reason for these varied connections is that computer science has strong relationships with mathematics, engineering, management, and architecture," Moses said.

Moses is "used to responsibility and he's always someone who has thought broadly about the issues of education," said Professor of Health Sciences and Technology Nelson Y. S. Kiang.

"Whoever assumes the position of provost in these times is probably not going to be popular because there are very tough decisions that have to be made," Kiang said. "It won't be all building some things will have to be attenuated."

Moses will also have to watch out for divisiveness in the MIT community, Kiang said. "There are many forces that tend to drive people apart at MIT, and the job of the upper administration is to do what it has to do without driving people apart any more than is necessary."

"They have to somehow communicate to all the components of MIT what they value and would work to build," he said.

Moses has "done extremely well as administrator," said Institute Professor Jerome I. Friedman. Although MIT traditionally has a scientist for president and an engineer for provost or vice versa, having engineers in both top positions does not present a problem, Friedman said.

"It depends upon the individual," said Friedman. "I don't think one should look too carefully" at the person's specific area; "it's a question of the vision of the person, a question of how to position the university to function in the best possible way in this budgetary climate."

Moses, a former head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been dean of the School of Engineering since 1991. Since 1989, he has been the Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.

A member of the EECS faculty for almost 30 years, Moses is best known for the development of Macsyma, one of the largest computer systems for symbolic algebra manipulation.

His areas of interest are the organization of large complex systems, competitiveness, product realization, knowledge-based systems, computers and education, and symbolic manipulation.

Moses has been actively involved with the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; he was named an IEEE fellow in 1990. He is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Born in Petach Tikvah, Israel in 1941, Moses came to the United States in 1954 and received the Bachelor of Arts (1962) and Master of Arts (1963) degrees in mathematics from Columbia University.

Moses joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1967, the same year he received his doctorate in mathematics under the supervision of Professor of EECS Marvin Minsky. He became an associate professor in 1971 and a full professor in 1977.

He served as EECS head from 1981 to 1987 and associate director of the Laboratory for Computer Science from 1974 to 1981.