Susan Hockfield's remarks to the Special Meeting of the MIT Community

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I am deeply honored to have been selected as MIT's sixteenth president.

As a scientist, I have always regarded MIT as a beacon, projecting an incredibly bright light that has illuminated the path of discovery and innovation for the entire world.

I know that I am only one of countless people who have been inspired – and awed – by MIT's strengths along the entire continuum of scholarship, from the most fundamental, basic research into the nature of our world, to the most advanced applications and technological innovations.

It is of course the mission of every university to produce and disseminate knowledge, and yet MIT advances both parts of this mission at an astonishing rate. Discoveries and innovations have poured forth from the Institute in a staggering torrent – from engineering and science, to be sure, but just as impressively from economics, business, the arts, the social sciences, and the humanities.

As you might imagine, over the last several weeks, I have become increasingly attuned to any mention of MIT. And, perhaps not surprisingly, hardly a day has gone by without news of some MIT discovery, some invention, some new program, coming to my attention.

MIT's remarkable history of discovery and innovation alone might well have been enough to draw me here, but over these last few months, I have discovered another, critically important feature of this institution's character--something that speaks to the values and ideals that seem to be the very foundation of this place.

From my first conversations in the search process, I kept hearing about three of MIT's central values: the pursuit of truth, integrity, and the great meritocracy. I heard this from trustees, I heard it from faculty, I heard it from students, and I heard it from staff members. And what I heard told me that here was a place whose values closely mirrored my own, a place whose mission I could truly embrace, and a place where Tom, Elizabeth, and I could feel at home.

I would guess that many of you are wondering how I imagine the future for MIT. (Let me first reassure everyone that I do not intend to bring a kennel of Yale bulldogs to this campus.) I believe in building strength on strength. Each of MIT's schools and activities must continue to be strong and distinctive, and we must continue to look for opportunities to amplify those strengths through collaboration, through shared vision, and through shared work.

My overarching goal is to help MIT to be an even greater MIT, to become even better at education, research, and invention. Part of this goal will be met by ensuring that anyone who has the extraordinary talents and ambition to make the most of what MIT has to offer has a fair chance to join this community. And I will do all I can to maintain MIT's leadership in setting the agenda for national policy in research and education, as well as to build bridges with academic centers in other nations.

What do I want to see in MIT's future? Put quite simply, I want MIT to be the dream of every child who wants to make the world a better place. And also the dream of every engineer, scientist, scholar, and artist who draws inspiration from the idea of working in a hotbed of innovation, in service to humanity.

I want to thank the search committee and its advisory groups of faculty and students for the gracious and intelligent, yet probing, conversations we have had over the course of the search process. I look forward to continuing those conversations and starting many others with all of you. And I must, in particular, thank Jim Champy, Jerry Friedman, and Dana Mead, for their steady help and the many insights they have shared about what Paul Gray has called, "this special place."

I would be remiss, indeed, if I did not seize this opportunity, although I know there will be many others, to salute Chuck Vest for his extraordinary leadership – both here at MIT and on the national scene. He has brought forward a great number of key initiatives and has forged important new directions over the 14 years he has served as MIT's president. For his work, for MIT and for the nation, I extend my personal thanks.

At this point, I have only just started to learn about MIT. We are now in the season of going back to school, and it is time for me to do the same. You, all of you – students, faculty, and staff – will be my teachers in the weeks and months ahead.

I am incredibly excited to be joining this learning community. And I am honored beyond words to join this institution as MIT's next president.

Thank you very much.