Hockfield announces resignation

Editor’s Note: Check back throughout the day for updates on President Hockfield’s resignation.

Susan J. Hockfield, MIT’s 16th president, announced this morning her decision to step down from the presidency after 7 years.

“I write to share with you my decision to step down from the presidency of MIT,” she wrote in a campus-wide email at 9 a.m. sharp. “Over the past seven years, working together we have accomplished far more than I set out to do.”

Hockfield, who assumed the presidency in December of 2004, succeeded Charles M. Vest, who was president from 1990 to 2004. Hockfield had previously served as a professor of neuroscience and as provost of Yale University. Hockfield is the first woman, and the first life scientist, to serve as an MIT president.

Citing the Institute’s new goals and recent sesquicentennial celebration, Hockfield wrote that the time for transition was at hand. “The Institute is now moving forward on a new set of ambitious goals, and I have concluded that the powerful momentum we have built makes this an opportune moment for a leadership transition.”

These ambitious goals? MITx, international partnerships (with Russia, China, and more), MIT’s energy research, and the increase in the undergraduate class size are all mentioned in her email. She also references MIT’s fiscal performance through the financial crisis — MIT raised nearly $3 billion during her presidency, according to the MIT News Office, but also saw steep budget cuts.

While staying on to continue to see these goals come to full fruition “tempted” Hockfield, she wrote that the necessary fundraising to support these ambitions will “require the full focus and sustained attention of the Institute’s president over many years.” As part of the MIT 2030 framework, for instance, the Institute hopes to raise $750 million.

“I have concluded that it would be best for the Institute to begin this next chapter with new leadership,” she wrote.

In summarizing her career over the past seven years, Hockfield praised the “community of creative minds” at MIT and credited the collaborative nature of MIT for making “tremendous progress” possible.

The search for MIT’s new president will begin immediately. After Vest announced his resignation in December of 2003, it was not until August of 2004 that Hockfield’s presidency was publicly known. She will continue to serve as president until her successor is picked.

According to the bylaws of the MIT Corporation, the new president must be nominated by the Executive Committee and then approved by a majority vote by the entire corporation. Students and faculty will also have input in the search via recommendations to the Executive Committee.