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Silbey, Magnanti, Schmalensee; Deans Say They Will Step Down

By Manisha Padi

Hanhan Wang

Three deans — Robert J. Silbey of the School of Science, Thomas L. Magnanti of the School of Engineering, and Richard Schmalensee ’65 of the Sloan School of Management — will be stepping down from their positions in the coming months to return to research and teaching, as announced by the MIT News Office on Friday. Magnanti and Silbey will stay on as deans until their successors are identified, while Schmalensee will stay on until the end of the academic year.

According to Provost L. Rafael Reif, in a letter that the News Office reported was sent to the MIT community on Friday, had long “looked forward to pursuing academic interests they had put aside for some time while shouldering the demanding responsibilities of school leadership … in favor of MIT’s and their schools’ best interests.” It is unclear if students received the letter.

“When my term was up last December, I asked the Provost if I could step down,” Silbey said in an e-mail yesterday. “He asked me to stay for a while during the transition” between President Charles M. Vest and President Susan Hockfield. “I agreed but now the time has come to move on.” Silbey, who has been a part of the administration since he was appointed interim deam in Feb. 2000, hopes to return to the chemistry department to resume his teaching. He has taught at MIT since 1966.

In his letter, Reif noted that the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute were established during Silbey’s time as dean, and that Silbey has chaired the Presidential Task Force on Student Life and Learning, which gave its report in 1998, and Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons which will soon release final recommendations. Silbey also wrote in an e-mail that over 80 faculty members were hired during his time as dean.

Silbey has “enhanced and strengthened the core activities of the School of Science while developing key areas such as neuroscience, systems and computational biology, cancer biology and astrophysics,” Reif wrote in the letter, as reported by the News Office.

Magnanti, who has been the Dean for the School of Engineering since Jan. 1999 and who is one of MIT’s 13 Institute Professors, feels that he has helped during the transition from Vest to Hockfield. He also said that believes it is time for a new perspective and new leadership in the school. “I love being able to represent the best engineering school in the galaxy,” Magnanti said. “I’m most proud of helping faculty and students achieve their goals here.”

Reif wrote about Magnanti’s “deep commitment to leadership through technical excellence and innovation.” According to the News Office, he helped lead the development of partnerships with Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. He has supported new education programs within MIT, including new undergraduate majors in biological engineering, chemical-biological engineering, and mechanical and ocean engineering. He has also overseen the hiring of many new faculty, and the expansion of summer programs for younger scientists, according to the News Office.

His job has not always been satisfying, however. “There are too many meetings. It takes me away from what attracted me to such a marvelous school — the teaching and the research.” He plans to work with students and do research once he steps down. Magnanti has been a member of the faculty since 1971.

Schmalensee, who plans to step down at the end of the academic year, said that the timing of his leave has been largely dictated by the Sloan School building project, which he considers his most significant contribution since he became dean in Jan. 1998. The building will be located on Memorial Drive and Main Street and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2010.

“I want to close out the project,” Schmalensee said. During his term as dean, Schmalensee has directed fund-raising efforts, obtaining $150 million towards the new building. Schmalaensee has also worked on curriculum design and professionalism training for the Sloan MBA program.

A professor of economics and management, Schmalensee is looking forward to his one-year sabbatical leave, which is given to every dean after stepping down. “Being back on the faculty is being promoted,” Schmalensee said. Additionally, he is looking forward to spending more time with his family and to returning to the classroom.