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Search Proceeds for New Chair of the Corporation

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News Editor

A search is currently being conducted to replace Paul E. Gray '54, chairman of the MITCorporation. A candidate may be named to become the next chairman by early March.

Gray will retire by the end of June, after serving as an Institute officer for 26 years. Gray has been an employee of the Institute for 39 years and has served in numerous positions ranging from teaching assistant to dean of the School of Engineering to president.

"The chairman leads the corporation, which is a board of trustees that has the legal and moral responsibilities for everything that goes on in the Institute," Gray said.

A subcommittee of the executive committee of the Corporation was formed late last spring to serve as the search committee for the new chairman of the Corporation.

"This search committee asked for suggestions from all members of the Corporation about the kinds of qualities one should seek in a chair, possible models for this position, and names of people who might be suitable candidates," said Secretary of the Corporation Kathryn A. Willmore, executive assistant to the president.

The four-member search committee will make a recommendation to the 10-member executive committee, which, if it accepts the recommendation, will then place it before the 70-member full Corporation board, Willmore said. A majority vote of the full board is required for the nomination to be accepted.

The board meets four times a year, on Commencement Day in June and on the first Fridays of October, December, and March.

"I think December is too early and June is too late of a date for the executive committee to recommend a candidate," Gray said. "March is probably going to be the meeting in which the recommendation is made to the board."

The search committee is headed by Gerald W. Austen '51. The other members are Edward E. David Jr. ScD '50, Judith C. Lewent SM '72, and Morris Tanenbaum.

"A chairman is usually a former president, which means that the person has a lot of experience raising funds for the Institute, which is one of the main responsibilities of the chairman," Gray said.

According to the bylaws of the Corporation, the chairman of the Corporation, at the time of election, shall be either a former president, the retiring president, or a member of the Corporation.

"The next chair could come from the ranks of the Corporation or have no present formal affiliation with the Institute," Willmore said. Since Vest "is in the midst of his presidency, the next chair will not be a former or retiring president, but must be a member of the Corporation."

This does not exclude someone who is not currently a member of the Corporation, Willmore said. If the recommended candidate is not currently a member, he or she would first be elected a member, then elected chair.

There were two such instances in the past where a former president was not available to become chairman, Gray said. "Vannevar Bush '16 was a trustee when he assumed the position part-time at 1957. David S. Saxon '41 had served on the Corporation prior to being appointed as chairman at 1983."

"What will happen this time? Will the person be a member of the Corporation right now? Or will the person be a past member of the Corporation? It is unclear to me," Gray said.

Fund raising, advising important

"The chairman can also serve as a confidential adviser of the president at the choice of the president," Gray said. "I was particularly useful to [President Charles M. Vest] when he came to MIT and assumed the position seven years ago to help him gain knowledge of this place."

"A chairman needs to be someone knowledgeable about higher education, and it is an additional benefit to specifically understand this place," Gray said.

The chairman needs to have the ability to command the confidence and respect of the trustees, Willmore said. He or she needs to have experience in complex organizations, including experience with boards of director and trustees.

"Additionally, substantial experience with academic institutions would be a plus, but not essential, so long as the prospect had a good understanding of academic organization and culture," Willmore said. "Involvement with the corporate community or high-level government service could be another plus," she said.

"I spent the first three to four years as chairman finishing up a fund-raising campaign I started as president," Gray said. "Chairman is not a job with major challenges like those faced by the president."

"The chairman needs to be prepared to take on the fund-raising task," Gray said. "The Institute will likely start another capital campaign, which the chairman will without doubt be involved in."

"The outgoing chairman is traditionally elected as an honorary chairman, but I don't want to jump to any conclusions," Gray said.

Gray to teach after retirement

Gray entered MIT as a freshman in 1950, and after completing graduate studies in electrical engineering, he joined the faculty of that department, Willmore said. "He has served as chancellor, then president, and now chair of the MIT Corporation. MIT has benefitted enormously from his talents and wisdom over the years."

"I am not retiring from the Institute; I will be continuing as the professor of electrical engineering and computer science," Gray said.

"I have done this job for seven years, spent 26 years as an officer of the Institute, and I think that is long enough," Gray said. "I want to have a few years to do other things, including teaching, which I have been doing, but I will not have the pressure of being chairman."