Provost Martin Schmidt to become President of RPI next summer

Schmidt has been at MIT for 40 years, as student, professor, lab director, and provost

Provost Martin A. Schmidt SM ’83 PhD ’88 will serve as President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) beginning July 2022. Schmidt will continue to be provost of MIT until February 2022, to complete the current budget process.

According to a letter from President L. Rafael Reif to the MIT community, Reif hopes to “identify” Schmidt’s successor “promptly” to allow Schmidt time to prepare for his new position and to “ensure a smooth transition for MIT.”

In an MIT News article, Schmidt said that when RPI first approached him “over the summer regarding the presidency,” he was “not at first convinced that it was a fit” for him.

However, as he considered it, Schmidt “came to realize that there is something special about being given the opportunity to lead your undergraduate alma mater.” Both Schmidt and his wife attended RPI as undergraduates.

Schmidt graduated from RPI with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 1981 before receiving a master’s and a doctorate from MIT in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) in 1983 and 1988, respectively.

Schmidt then became a member of EECS faculty in 1988 and was named Ray and Maria Stata Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2016.

Prior to becoming provost in 2014, Schmidt served as director of MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories from 1999 to 2006 and as associate provost from 2008 to 2013.

Schmidt told MIT News that he “came to MIT in September 1981 as a 21-year old graduate student, and never left.” 

“MIT has been a remarkable home for me,” Schmidt added, “It has allowed me to pursue my research and teaching passions, and has immersed me in an environment of inspiring and dedicated staff, students, and faculty. I’ve been presented with exceptional opportunities to contribute to MIT and beyond.”

As associate provost, Schmidt was responsible for MIT’s buildings, space allocation, and facilities budgets and helped lead the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force in response to the financial crisis of 2007–8.

As provost, Schmidt has served as MIT’s senior academic and budget officer, responsible for MIT’s educational programs and the recruitment, promotion, and tenuring of faculty. During his term, Schmidt has helped to create the College of Computing, co-chaired the board of edX with Harvard Provost Alan Garber, and overseen the development of an Institute-wide Strategic Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and an MIT Values Statement.

As a researcher, Schmidt studied microelectronics and sensors and collaborated with companies like 3M, Bosch, and General Motors. He additionally supervised 35 PhD theses, received 37 patients, and helped start seven companies.

In Reif’s letter, he wrote that Schmidt “embodies an MIT ideal — a scholar at work in the world” and that he “could not be more grateful” for Schmidt’s “expert counsel and his enduring friendship.”

In Schmidt’s new role at RPI, he will succeed fellow MIT graduate Shirley Ann Jackson ’68 PhD ’73, who has been RPI president since 1999. Jackson announced that she would be stepping down in June 2021.

MIT community members who would like to suggest candidates for MIT’s next provost may email