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Vest Sole Candidate For PresidentPresident Emeritus Nominated as President of National Academy

By Joyce Kwan

The nominating committee of the National Academy of Engineering unanimously approved Charles M. Vest, MIT’s president emeritus, to be the sole candidate for presidency of the NAE. Members of the NAE will vote in March 2007 to select the president, whose term will begin on July 1, 2007, according to an NAE press release.

If Vest wins, he will take the place of William A. Wulf, who has served as president of the NAE for two consecutive terms. Each NAE presidential term lasts six years and bylaws of the NAE prohibit anyone from running for a third term. Although Vest is the sole candidate at present, other candidates may still be added to the ballot until Jan. 15, 2007, as stated in the press release.

“I have great admiration for Charles Vest and all that he has done for MIT,” Wulf said in a phone interview. “I am pleased as can possibly be that he is running for president.”

Vest, 65, served as MIT’s 15th president from 1990 – 2004. In a 2003 Tech interview, Vest said that he hoped his future would involve “national affairs, policy affairs, maybe … a little bit more work for the non-profit center one way or another.”

Vest’s presidency, the third longest of any MIT president, was marked by several high-profiled student deaths that led to dramatic changes in MIT student life and a dot-com era building boom that led to the start of several construction projects.

Faculty and student diversity was an important issue during Vest’s term.

“Our educational system must better serve an increasingly pluralistic society,” he said in 1990 in his inaugural address. “Efforts to attract women and students of color and to provide an environment in which they can successfully complete their education must continue and grow increasingly effective.”

According to the NAE press release, Vest was “a member of the bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction … led a U.S. Department of Energy task force on the future of science programs … and chaired a presidential advisory commission on the redesign of the International Space Station in 1992-1994.”

The NAE, founded in 1964, is part of the National Academy of Sciences, which was established by President Lincoln in 1863. A “private, independent, nonprofit institution,” as the NAE Web site states, the institute advises the federal government on and “conducts independent studies to examine important topics in engineering and technology.”

The president of the NAE “chooses initiatives for the institute to undertake,” NAE public relations officer Randy Atkins said in a phone interview.

Vest became a member of the NAE in 1993 due to “technical and educational contributions to holographic interferometry and leadership as an educator,” according to the NAE press release. He holds a BS in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University, an MS and PhD from the University in Michigan, and 10 honorary degrees including one from MIT.

When Vest assumed the presidency in 1990, hackers welcomed him to the Institute by hiding his office door behind a fake bulletin board.