Organization:President Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Personal Biography:Charles M. Vest is President Emeritus and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Vest earned his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University in 1963 and both his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan in 1964 and 1967, respectively. He is the recipient of ten honorary doctoral degrees.
Dr. Vest served as President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1990 through 2004. During this time, he placed special emphasis on enhancing undergraduate education, exploring new organizational forms to meet emerging directions in research and education, building a stronger international dimension into education and research programs, developing stronger relations with industry, and enhancing racial and cultural diversity at MIT.
Dr. Vest has worked to bring issues concerning education and research to broader public attention and to strengthen national policy on science, engineering and education. He chaired the President’s Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the Space Station and serves on the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. He chaired the U.S. Department of Energy Task force on the Future of DOE Science Programs, was vice chair of the Council on Competitiveness for 8 years, and is a past chair of the Association of American Universities. Dr. Vest recently completed service as a member of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction and of the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. He now serves on the Department of State Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy and the Rice-Chertoff Secure Borders, Open Doors Advisory Board Subcommittee. He has been nominated to serve as president of the National Academy of Engineering for the period of 2006-2012.
Dr. Vest is the author of two books on higher education and research policy: Pursuing the Endless Frontier: Essays on MIT and the Role of the Research University (MIT Press 2004), and The American Research University from World War II to World Wide Web (University of California Press, to be published in summer 2007).
Dr. Vest is a Life Member of the MIT Corporation, the Institute’s board of trustees.
A partner in Dr. Vest’s presidency was his wife, Rebecca McCue Vest, who has been active with national and international MIT alumni/ae events, student affairs and the service-oriented MIT Women’s League. The Vests have two children and three grandchildren. Their daughter, Kemper, is a defense analyst who lives in Arlington, Va., with her husband John Gay and their two children. Their son John is a cardiologist and a fellow in electrophysiology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He and his wife Christina and their daughter live in Wellesley, MA.
Lecture Topic: 21st Century Science and Engineering: Why I wish I could Start All Over Again