After more than two and a half years serving as Chancellor of MIT, Eric Grimson PhD ’80 will step down to fill the new role of Chancellor of Academic Advancement. President L. Rafael Reif outlined the position as the head of a new fundraising campaign in the Oct. 22 announcement.
According to MIT’s press release, the new role will require “making the case for MIT’s fundraising priorities with alumni and donors around the world” as part of a large upcoming campaign to raise capital for the Institute. In an interview with The Tech, Grimson said, “The idea of this position is to have a senior academic very much engaged and helping to refine and coordinate these student and faculty and their interest within the capital campaign that we’re about to launch.” He added, “My goals are the Institute’s goals; to make sure that I support the president as we make sure that the faculty and student perspective are well intertwined with the capital campaign.”
Grimson and Reif discussed the change before the president asked Grimson to take up the job. “The capital campaign is incredibly important to the wellbeing of the Institute for the next many years, and while it may be challenging, I was happy to agree to it and am excited to do it,” said Grimson.
Reif’s announcement stated that Grimson had unique qualifications for the new position. Grimson saw the entirety of his time at MIT as important preparation for his new role. “I think of this as an evolution; as department head I spent a lot of time talking with alumni around the world, talking with donors, raising funds, and I did the same thing as chancellor,” said Grimson, “that experience is just going to naturally flow into the new position.”
Grimson also cited the connections he made as Chancellor as important to his new role. “I’ve had the chance to meet alumni around the world, and that gives me a base on which to build as I think of how MIT’s message gets out to our potential donors. We need to persuade them that supporting MIT is one of the best things we can do, not just for this generation of students, but for students and faculty to come.”
Grimson also reflected on his primary achievements during his time as Chancellor, which include strengthening the range of student support available at the Institute with various projects. “There was no one thing that was a magic bullet, it was a set of things that helped make this a more supportive place,” said Grimson. He also pointed out his involvement in the rollout and continued evolution of online digital tools and massive open online courses at MIT. Along with Course VI professor John V. Guttag, he helped to create 6.00x, an online analog of 6.00, currently in its third offering.
Nevertheless, Grimson suggested his tenure as Chancellor was not necessarily defined by the most prominent projects. “The Chancellor’s job isn’t about big initiatives, necessarily. It’s about just making sure things are done that improve the experience for students at the Institute. Sometimes those are small things, and sometimes those are large things. I don’t think a Chancellor has to come in and dramatically change the way we do things.”
Fundraising is usually led by the Institute’s president. Susan J. Hockfield, who preceded Reif, raised almost $3 billion during her presidency but cited the upcoming capital campaign as a reason for the timing of her departure, according to the MIT News Office. According to the recent press release, Grimson’s new role will require a significant of dedicated travel.
Grimson said his focus is now completely on the new campaign. “I’m looking at the campaign, that’s my biggest focus,” said Grimson, “this is a multi-year commitment and for now there’s nothing beyond the campaign in my mind.”