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Hockfield Names Sr. Advisor To Replace Willmore

By Marissa Vogt

Senior Advisor to the President Kirk D. Kolenbrander has been appointed to Vice President for Institute affairs, and nominated to replace Kathryn A. Willmore as secretary of the MIT Corporation, President Susan Hockfield announced Tuesday.

Kolenbrander said that as VP for Institute affairs he will maintain a number of his current tasks as senior advisor to the president, including managing chief of staff functions and giving policy advice.

According to Tech Talk, Hockfield also announced on Tuesday the creation of a VP for external relations position, which has not been filled yet. Hockfield did not respond to requests for comment.

The secretary of the Corporation is responsible for coordinating communication between the administration and MIT’s trustees. Willmore stressed the importance of the secretary’s role in communicating to the trustees the concerns of the students. “It’s very important to have people who understand the MIT community very well,” she said.

Willmore said that she was “one of many people that the President consulted” while searching for her replacement. Willmore said she was impressed with Kolenbrander’s experience relating to both MIT faculty and students. That experience, she said, is important for internal relations as well as communication with the trustees, who are part of “the external MIT family.”

Willmore is stepping down after 40 years at MIT. Before becoming secretary of the Corporation in 1994, she had served as director of public relations services in 1986 and executive assistant to then-President Paul E. Gray, according to Tech Talk.

Kolenbrander said that his experience coordinating Leadershape, a six-day IAP conference for 80 MIT students and staff, and serving as interim dean for student life will help him address student concerns in his new role. “The corporation itself is deeply interested in making sure the resources are there for MIT students to excel,” Kolenbrander said.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” and honored to follow Willmore in the role of secretary, he said.

Kolenbrander called the recent turnover in the administration “an opportunity for MIT to enjoy the input of new ideas,” but said that as someone who has served on both the faculty and senior administration, he brings to the job “a sense of history.”

Kolenbrander has been at MIT since 1990, and filled positions as associate professor, interim dean for student life, and special assistant to the chancellor.

Willmore said that Hockfield informed the executive committee of the Corporation that Kolenbrander was her choice for secretary and then the committee, which includes the chairman of the corporation, president, and treasurer, passed the nomination to the full corporation.

Kolenbrander said the full corporation’s vote on his nomination will probably happen at the next meeting on March 3.