Inaugural Luncheon in Honor of 15th MIT President Charles Vest
MODERATOR: Welcome to each person here. You honor us today with your presence. The invocation will now be given by Rabbi Daniel Shevitz, chaplain at MIT.
SHEVITZ: It's customary at these occasions for the speaker to address his or her words to the Lord with a wishful ambition of being overheard by the company present. Since this expectation is of dubious merit, I prefer to address my invocation to the company with the sure and certain knowledge that it will be overheard by the almighty.
And so, honored guests, it is to our new president that our hopes and prayers are directed today. President Vest, some 2000 years ago a distinguished young rabbi named Eliezer or was elected president of the Jewish college called the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Decades later, commenting on his career, the Talmud reports that, even though Rabbi Eliezer achieved high academic office, nonetheless, he lived a long life.
I'm sure you can sympathize with that rabbi. The mantle of leadership cannot always be worn without pain. Permit me to commend to you the advice a Hasidic master gave to his disciples a couple hundred years ago.
He was asked by one of them, Rabbi, why do we have two pockets in our pants? They serve a lofty purpose, he replied. Every man must keep two pieces of paper, one in each pocket, to be retrieved as necessary. In one pocket the piece of paper must read, "The world was created only for my sake." But in the other pocket the slip of paper should read, quoting the biblical patriarch, Abraham, "Behold, I am but dust and ashes." This is more than pious advice. It's good planning.
On the one hand, do not think that all problems are comprehensible, let alone solvable. Though the women and men at this great institution spend their days creating ideas and theories and books and even new forms of life, we need to remind ourselves that we are but creatures ourselves, somewhat frail and often vulnerable and badly in need of the love and forbearance that we can give to each other.
Do not let this be a place where human failure is inexcusable, or where the search for excellence becomes a thin disguise for moral solipsism. Let us learn humility from the grander of the world which we conspire to conquer every day.
On the other hand, remember, please, that long ago God took the mantle of authority from province and placed it on the shoulders of wise administrators. This is a huge juggernaut of an institution, divided into many departments and offices, and functions with many rules and procedures which bureaucracy requires. It takes knowledge and skill to navigate through it successfully, but it takes wisdom to know when to rise above it all.
You have scores of advisors who can tell you what is necessary or inevitable or required, or state or federally mandated, but only you can decide when rules must be broken in order to do what is right. Every time an undergraduate is ignored by an overworked TA, every time a grad student is abused by a disinterested supervisor, every time a faculty member is unjustly denied tenure, their cries will go unto God, and God will hear them. But before those cries and petitions reach the celestial throne of God, they will undoubtedly land on your desk.
What happens next will make a great deal of difference to this institute and for this nation. In a culture beset by the constant pressure to produce results, when young students need not only good teachers but good models, you can make the system work. Centuries ago, the Bible recalls, young King Saul attempted to excuse his lack of leadership by complaining that the popular will was against him. Scolding him for his acquiescence to moral compromise, the prophet Samuel thundered, "Though you be small in your own eyes, behold, you are the leader of these many tribes."
And so, President Vest, we ask for you God's gifts of humility and boldness, of forbearance and strength of character, of cunning and of wisdom. May you learn to use these gifts wisely and appropriately. May God give them not just for you, but so that you can share them with us. And oh, yes, may you always be prepared on short notice to put your hands in your pockets.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Dan. Now, this morning we engaged in the formal portion of this signal day, so important in the life and history of this university. And now we continue with less formal, but no less warm, events.
In preparation for this day, I must tell you, Chuck, I looked up in Webster's the definition of "vest." The second meaning of that transitive verb is, and I quote, "to grant or endow with a particular authority, right or property." End of quote.
Now, that's reasonably descriptive of what we're up to today, although I must tell you, Chuck, that no endowment goes with it. We do, indeed, vest Chuck and Becky with all the rights, responsibilities, joys, tribulations, satisfactions, and heartburn that go with that partnership that comprises the presidency. And we do so with the light and confidence, a confidence ratified by your presence with us since last October.
We are joined by friends and associates who will bring their own personal messages to the vests at this luncheon. We will hear next from William F. Weld, governor of the state of Massachusetts, and ex-officio, a member of the institute's governing board. He will bring greetings from the Commonwealth. Following Governor Weld, we will hear from Derek Buck, president of Harvard University, who will bring greetings on behalf of our sister institutions in Cambridge and greater Boston, and then from Professor Henry D. Jacoby, chairman of the MIT faculty, who will bring greetings on behalf of his colleagues at MIT. Governor Weld.
WELD: Thank you very much. I am honored to be here today to celebrate with you a new beginning for MIT, and to welcome to Massachusetts a man whose talent and commitment to education and the advancement of engineering and life sciences runs deep, your new president, Chuck Vest.
President Vest, when you agreed to become the president of MIT a year ago, you took on an awesome responsibility. You agreed to steer the school that leads the country in scientific innovation and entrepreneurship. MIT alumni have founded more than 600 companies in this state, Raytheon, Digital, Teradyne, and the Apollo Computer, to name just a few. Firms spawned by MIT are spread over 104 cities and towns here, and employ more than 300,000 people, generating more than $10 billion in income throughout the state. Those are the kinds of numbers that, in these degenerate days, I like to hear.
I understand that MIT hackers are quick enough to have already pulled a prank or two in your office, and aren't doing too poorly in the research area, either. Seriously, the creativity and entrepreneurial energy of MIT students, faculty, and alumni have led to the development of high tech computers and high definition television. They've improved the capabilities of the Patriot missile and found better ways to candy coat M&M's. I have five children who want to know how they can get in on that project.
I do believe that institutions like MIT will be the key to the new growth so badly needed in this state. They can put the people of Massachusetts back to work and help make Massachusetts a hub of international trade. In fact, if we do not soon see a turnaround in the economy of Massachusetts, Mr. President, I'm going to start referring the press inquiries to you. There's nothing more essential for economic recovery than human capital, and we will be looking to academic institutions like MIT for their invaluable leadership in that area. And if there are any other academic institutions of the caliber of MIT and the Cambridge Boston area that are brought to our attention we will look to them as well.
President Vest has proven himself to be a true leader as provost and dean of engineering at the University of Michigan, and he is, by common consensus, the right man to lead MIT into the 21st century. Mr. President, I look forward to working with you as a fellow rookie, together, to help make Massachusetts the glittering capital of the Atlantic rim. Thank you very much.
BUCK: President Vest, Senator Kennedy, Governor Weld, honored guests, it's a great pleasure to be here once again to bring greetings on behalf of the area's universities. You are, Mr. Vest, the fourth president of MIT whom I've been privileged to have as a colleague, and this is the third MIT inauguration that I have attended. And these occasions always inspire me to think back on the halcyon days around the turn of the century, when Harvard was already a quarter of a millennium old and MIT but a small, struggling, back bay institution.
Four times, Harvard tried to envelop MIT in its smothering embrace, and each time, some stubborn obstacle got in the way. First was a recalcitrant MIT president with his impractical ideas about independence. And then there was a mob of angry alumni who thought they knew better than a willing MIT president and trustees. And finally, after everything else was settled, a small matter of a dowry intervened. A judge ruled that MIT could not sell its Back Bay mansion and give the proceeds to Harvard.
And in that moment, as in a great Shakespearean tragedy, at the very moment that success was at hand, Harvard's ambitions were thwarted by one tiny flaw-- our overweening preoccupation with money. Well, history will be the judge of these misadventures, but up the river, I want to tell you some of us are beginning to wonder whether your alumni might not have been right after all.
You do seem to be doing extraordinarily well on your own. I know that because US News and World Report just informed me that MIT ranks number one in engineering while Harvard stood 22nd. Actually, both of us were delighted. MIT, of course, was pleased to be number one, and since Harvard doesn't have an engineering school, we were very pleased to be recognized at all.
An MIT inauguration is always an important event for higher education because MIT is such an important institution, the flagship of America's academic science engineering and technology. And today, Mr. Vest, as you know, and as you will be told repeatedly, you stride upon that particular deck at a very critical moment in the life of science and technology in this country. Because certainly not in my lifetime has there been such a precarious, difficult time to captain that particular vessel.
Our universities do lead the world in their overall quality, and yet paradoxically, academic science is the subject of attack from many quarters of well referred to by you and President Rhodes this morning. There is, of course, a kernel of truth in all of these attacks that must be faced and dealt with. There's also a lot of exaggeration and misunderstanding, and much more important, a great deal of preoccupation with relatively minor scandals, while major problems go unattended that will ultimately shape our scientific future.
And so confronted with such problems, we have need of eloquent spokesmen to explain and to interpret ourselves in Washington and elsewhere. But much more important, we need able representatives who will work with their serious counterparts in the halls of government to establish what a real agenda should be, to rebuild our tattered partnership and to decide what needs to be done to keep our academic science at the forefront.
Almost half a century ago, a small group of scientists and statesmen began to dream and plan to make the quality of American science and technology the greatest in the world. The work began in the administration of and with the blessing of a Harvard man, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was conceived and described most brilliantly by a professor from MIT, Vannevar Bush. And it is your responsibility now, Mr. Vest, to help once again to lay the plans that will keep our science preeminent for yet another generation. All of us who care about higher education and the welfare of this country wish you every success in that great task. Thank you.
JACOBY: Governor Weld, Senator Kennedy, distinguished guests and friends, Chuck and Becky, our guests here may not realize it, but in the ceremony in which you participated this morning you can already see the beginning of the commitment that Chuck spoke about in his address. As he indicated, MIT has a great concern for the productivity and competitiveness of the United States, which leads naturally to a focus on quality control.
And you may have noticed that although this is the inauguration, he's already been the president for seven months. And we offer to our guests from other universities this new MIT policy, which we would suggest to you, we will inaugurate no presidents before their time.
I've also had several questions from people about how it is that we pull off this trick, that the sun gradually comes out as the president speaks. This is a specialty of our Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. And I suggest you contact them directly.
On behalf of the faculty, I want to extend our welcome to those of you who've come to help us celebrate. We celebrate ourselves as MIT, we honor and celebrate those scholars and leaders that have brought us to this point, we celebrate our collective lives as scholars and teachers, and we celebrate Chuck and Becky. I would address Chuck and Becky. You are terrific. My colleagues and I are enthusiastic. We're ready to work with you, with Mark and your team, to follow your lead in shaping the future of this great institution.
As chair of the faculty, I think I listened to this speech today, perhaps with somewhat different ears than others. Point after point in this speech contain not only Chuck's ideas, but ideas that have been exposed, winnowed in the discussion with the community, backed by work to build consensus about how we want to move. We are on our way, I believe. It's an exciting moment for us all.
MODERATOR: Governor Weld, President Buck, professor Jacoby thank you very much will not continue with the main course.
At this moment, between the main course and the salad course, we will hear greetings from two other guests today. The first is Edward M. Kennedy, senior senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who will bring greetings from government. The second is Niara Sudarkasa, president of Lincoln University, who will bring greetings on behalf of the nation's historically black colleges and universities.
KENNEDY: I'm honored to be with all of you and to participate in the inauguration of President Vest. In my line of work, I haven't been invited to any presidential inaugurations lately, so I'm particularly glad to be here today.
President Eliot of Harvard used to say, the reason universities are such great storehouses of learning is that every entering student brings a little knowledge in, and no graduating student ever takes any knowledge out. But that's certainly not true at MIT. This and the other great private research universities are uniquely American creations, and they are matched nowhere else in the world.
Most often we think of MIT in terms of engineering, electronics, and computer sciences. But beyond the worlds of engineering and computer science, you're also renowned for your pioneering work in public health and the biological sciences, and then in economics and the social sciences as well. MIT researches achieved the first synthesis of penicillin, you have led the fight against cancer with path-breaking studies of the cell's nucleus, and today it is fairly said that MIT has the finest biology department in the world.
If MIT were for sale, every other nation in the world plus 49 other states would want to buy it, regardless of the price. What happens in research universities is also a major concern for government. Because of the increasing national need for highly trained sophisticated workforce the federal government has long sought to increase the supply of graduate level scientists and engineers. Last year, Congress enacted legislation that will more than double the number of federally sponsored graduate fellowships by 1993.
In recent years, MIT has had more of these fellowship winners than any other institution in the nation. To help students and families meet the high cost of education, the federal government has created a broad range of student aid programs. Together, these initiatives now provide more than $18 billion a year for tuition.
Later this year, Congress will reauthorize the Higher Education Act. You don't often read about it in the headlines, but it may well be the most important measure we enact this year for the long run future of our country, and I look forward to working with President Vest and many of you here to ensure that this legislation is worthy of the challenges we face.
The level of public investment in scientific research is also a matter of growing concern. Every official knows we are living in the golden age of science. In spite of the successes of the past and because of the budget pressures of the present, universities find themselves under intense scrutiny and harsh criticism today, much of it fair, but some of it not so. Concerns about the escalating costs of education, scientific fraud and waste, student loan defaults, and the imbalance between teaching and research have all begun to tarnish the reputation of higher education.
Frankly, I suspect President Vest wishes he had not just an engineering degree, but a CPA as well. And if the battles get any rougher, he may want a bulletproof vest, also.
Neither government officials nor private universities can deal with these challenges alone. We must all work harder together, not just to resolve these concerns, but resolve them fairly and resolve them expeditiously. Only in this way can we revitalize the extraordinary partnership between government and research universities that has served this nation so well for the past 50 years.
Finally, as night follows day, as more and more public dollars are invested in education, more and more accountability to the public will inevitably be required. Our job, once again, it can only be done together. It is to maximize the clarity of whatever regulation is needed, minimize the bureaucracy, and above all, minimize the intrusion by government into academic life and work. In achieving these goals, the nation will need strong leadership in science policy of the kind that we have had in the past, with James Killian, Jerome Wiesner, Guy Stever, and Paul Gray. And I'm confident that President Vest will carry on that proud tradition. I know that Congress and the administration look forward to working closely with him in the years to come.
In large measure, the success of our nation tomorrow will depend on the quality of our investment today, in higher education, and scientific research. The test for all of us in the coming decade is to find effective ways to broaden and deepen that support. I am confident that working together we can meet this challenge and meet it wisely and generously. May MIT prosper under Charles Vest and continue its outstanding record of excellence in education. Thank you.
SUDARKASA: Mr. Chairman, President Vest and Mrs. Vest, Senator Kennedy, members of the MIT corporation, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and alumnae of this prestigious university, honored guests, esteemed colleagues, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is my very great pleasure to bring greetings on this joyous occasion to President Chuck Vest and the MIT community, which is eminently enriched by his presence and his leadership. I not only extend my personal greetings, but those of the trustees, faculty, staff, and students of Lincoln University, and more than 100 other colleges and universities serving historically or predominantly African-American student bodies.
Now, as a cultural anthropologist, I cannot claim extensive conversance with quantitative methodologies, but it does seem to me that there is persuasive evidence that if one wishes to become a college or university president, one of the surest routes is via a faculty or administrative position at the University of Michigan. President Vest is an excellent test case, but we can also point to, among the sitting presidents, President Frank Rhodes of Cornell, President Harold Shapiro of Princeton, President Linda Wilson of Radcliffe, your humble servant, and of course, the current president of the University of Michigan, Jim Duderstadt, who, like his good friend, Chuck Vest, began his career in Michigan's college of engineering.
In these financially lean years in higher education, perhaps, Jim, the University of Michigan might give itself a boost by levying a special exit tax on those faculty and administrators whom it has prepared to move into the lofty and not unlucrative position of university president. But then when I think of Chuck Vest's career at Michigan, I would have to say that he gave so much to that institution that Michigan should have given him an exit bonus for service above and beyond the call of duty.
I remember Chuck Vest as a quiet force at the University of Michigan, a man who might be likened to a laser, moving through seemingly impenetrable objects and obstacles with precision and speed to get things done. Chuck was the architect and administrator of the college of engineering's programs to recruit, retain, and graduate under-represented minority students. And these programs, in turn, were successful models for Michigan's other schools and colleges, as well as for schools of engineering around the country.
While others spoke of equity and equality as a threat to excellence in higher education, Chuck Vest and Jim Duderstadt convincingly proved that the pursuit of excellence did not preclude a commitment to equity. Indeed, the success of the minority students in Michigan's college of engineering proved that the pursuit of excellence could be enhanced by the intellectual and cultural diversity brought to the university through programs to provide equity and equality for all.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is fortunate to have at its helm a man who understands, as he said today, that an uncompromising commitment to scholarly excellence is fully compatible with the determination to encourage and enable the blossoming of talent among youth who have been traditionally excluded from many of this country's opportunities in higher education. Mr. Chairman, I applaud the university's good judgment and good fortune. Mr. President, as a colleague and as a friend, I offer my sincerest congratulations and I stand ready with commiserations when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will for all of us. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Very quickly-- that's wonderful. We now hear from three folks who are members, so to speak, of the inside MIT community, Stacy McGeever, member of the class of 1993, and president of the undergraduate association, will bring greetings from undergraduate students. Michael Grosberg, graduate student in mathematics and president of the Graduate Student Council, will bring greetings from graduate students. And finally, Christian J. Matthew, member of the class of 1943, president of the Association of MIT Alumni and Alumnae, and member ex-officio of the Institute's governing board, will bring greetings from the graduates.
MCGEEVER: I was actually hoping that more of you would have left after dessert but, since you're still here-- on behalf of the Undergraduate Association of MIT, I'd like to bring greetings to Charles, Rebecca, John, and Kemper Vest, as well as the rest of the distinguished guests present today. When Professor [? Kanasaris ?] requested that I bring greetings to President Vest, my response was, naturally, yes. A few days later, I received a memo to let me know more details, such as when and where I should be, and that the talk should be about three minutes long.
I was somewhat amused to see that the planners of the event were optimistic things were actually going to run according to schedule. My three minutes were specified as 2:35 to 2:38 on the bulletin. But what the undergraduates have to say can't be said in three minutes. Furthermore, the issues we want to address require talking with people rather than speaking to them. For these reasons, I am thankful that Dr. Vest has been exceptionally responsive to students over the past year, demonstrating a great willingness to listen, a concern for students, and a concern for the future of education.
And because I am an undergraduate, I must echo a concern which Dr. Vest mentioned earlier today that the undergraduate curriculum, especially in engineering, is becoming more and more constrained. Engineering students today need to draw from a broader base of sciences, to learn more advanced fields in technology, to develop a sense of ethics and productivity, and while doing all of the rest, to develop as a human person.
Despite the fact that the amount of information to learn has increased over the past few decades, MIT's curriculum has remained essentially the same for the past 30 years. MIT has a great opportunity to define a new educational paradigm for engineering education. Even now, the Institute faculty is considering adding a biology requirement to a student's already packed coursework. The rationale for doing so is well justified, that MIT should be giving scientific literacy to its students in order to prepare them for a lifetime of learning.
But there are many concerns, both from students and faculty, that there simply isn't enough time to do it all in four years. There is a considerable amount of discussion both at MIT and elsewhere on whether or not engineering should follow the lead of other professions, such as law and medicine, and expand to a five year program.
This is the uncertainty into which we welcome President Vest. I have confidence that his enthusiasm for redefinition of the Institute's mission will guide MIT through a crucial period in undergraduate education, and to echo the words of Dr. Vest, truly shape the future. Thank you.
GROSBERG: Distinguished guests, delegates, and faculty, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Graduate Student Council, it is my great pleasure to welcome the Vests to MIT. With the crucial role of science and technology has taken in our society, can we afford to ignore the culture from which it comes? The glitz and sparkle of the high tech makes it easy to forget that science is done by people. And it's wonderful that MIT has a new president who seems to recognize the human element in science.
For America to continue to produce the highest quality scientists and research, we must provide a healthy and positive atmosphere. Graduate students are the future researchers and educators. President Vest recently told a story that he surprised a government official while discussing funding. Apparently, the idea that, in the process of sponsoring research the government was training America's future scientists and engineers, i.e. graduate students, was completely novel.
I recently read an article summarizing MIT'S book, Made in America, it explained that Japanese companies often provide a healthy environment by giving their workers some degree of control over how they work. MIT is showing leadership in this area. Just this year, for the first time, there are student members on the committees that recommend the selection of deans.
Two days ago, I heard about a graduate student who was told by a faculty member that having a family was entirely inappropriate. He said, I don't pay you to raise kids. I pay you to do research. It seems that rather, we should be encouraging exactly the kind of humanistic people that would want to raise a family.
An MIT committee recently studied this issue, and Dr. Vest seems very keen to address these problems. When I first spoke to President Vest, he started by asking me about the environment for women and minorities, which, as you know, has been a traditional problem in science. I am encouraged, because I believe that he is committed to showing leadership and giving a human face to the monolith of science. I wish the president the greatest success in creating a healthy environment for researchers and educators, and I wish him and his family many happy years in Cambridge. Thank you.
MATTHEW: President Vest, Chuck, as president of the Association of Alumni and Alumnae of MIT, it is my distinct privilege and pleasure to extend to you, Becky, Kemper, and John, a warm welcome to the MIT family on this historic day. Our association, which now numbers over 90,000 loyal sons and daughters of MIT, located in 127 countries in addition to the United States, pledges its full support in helping you achieve your vision for the future of MIT, which you shared with us in your inspirational address this morning.
We note with particular interest your observation that MIT needs to redefine its mission as the world changes rapidly about us. This observation, together with your thoughts about some of the issues facing MIT, and the opportunities, as reported in the recent issue of Technology Review and in your talk this morning, represents a challenge to the entire Institute family. We are especially appreciative that you have agreed to meet with our clubs and to share these views with us as you did so eloquently in Northern California in January, just three months after taking office.
Everywhere that I go visiting alumni clubs around the country, alumni and alumnae comment about how rapidly you have come to understand the complexities of this great institution and its people. Your willingness to assume national leadership and speaking out on policy issues, and especially the importance of science and technology and related educational programs, is commendable. We, too, share your concern that whereas in the past, great educational institutions such as MIT were highly respected by both the federal government and the public, this respect is changing, if not actually declining.
We welcome the opportunity to support and serve you as you face these challenges, and leading MIT to even greater heights of accomplishment as an important national and international resource. We sincerely hope that we will continue to earn the compliment you paid us when you said, the constituency that gives the university the greatest sense of hope and vitality and enthusiasm is, indeed, its alumni and alumnae, here the largest segment of the MIT family.
Chuck, again, our best wishes for continued success in your illustrious career as you undertake the awesome responsibilities to which you have dedicated yourself as the 15th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
GRAY: Next, greetings from our city and from a state. Alice K. Wolf, mayor of the city of Cambridge, to which the Institute moved just 75 years ago this spring, at the specific invitation of the city council, will bring greetings from our city. James J. Duderstadt, President of the University of Michigan, and longtime close colleague of President Vest, will bring greetings from Michigan.
WOLF: Mr. Chairman, President and Mrs. Vest, the Vest youngsters-- they're not youngsters anymore-- young people, as mayor of the city of Cambridge I want to welcome you to our city. I want to welcome you to this wonderful institution that has such great leadership qualities in our country and in the world. I bring you the greetings of the Cambridge City Council and of the 96,000 people of the city of Cambridge. And I didn't know until today that you and I have approximately the same number of constituents.
MIT has played a major role in our country, plays a major role in our city. I was just saying that the many, many companies, many, many efforts, incubate off this campus into the neighborhood, incubate new scientific adventures and many new important discoveries for our country. And so as you come, and you have been here for this year, we look forward to your leadership in our community, your citizenship in our community, and your capacity to work with the city of Cambridge in a productive manner.
At this time, I would like to read to you a very brief resolution which the mayor has brought to you. Whereas Charles M. Vest has begun his tenure as the 15th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and whereas President Vest's inauguration occurs at a time of many changes for the city of Cambridge and its university, and whereas turning points such as this are an ideal time to forge new relationships, now therefore, I, Alice K. Wolf, Mayor of the City of Cambridge, on behalf of the Cambridge City Council, congratulate Charles M. Vest on his inauguration as President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the expectation that the president will bring great leadership to the Institute and to a productive partnership with the city of Cambridge." Issued on this 10th day of May, 1991, by myself.
I'm very pleased to welcome you, to thank you for the year that you have given us, and to also present to you a small momentum of appreciation from the city, a picture history of the city, of course, coming from the MIT Press, and with a picture in it which neither you nor I were able to see, a picture of the building of MIT in 1915. Thank you very much.
DUDERSTADT: Distinguished guests, colleagues, President and Mrs. Vest, Chuck and Becky, toughy. I got to tell you, Chuck, that Anne and I have been a bit nervous all day long. We've never been in so much scarlet and gray before. It feels a little bit like Ohio.
But when the sun came out and we saw that marvelous sign above one of your buildings, the University of Michigan at Cambridge, we knew that our Michigan colony had been reestablished, once again with Michigan leadership. Of course, you know this is the second Michigan leader, Jerry Wiesner being the first at MIT. Frank Rhodes incidentally pointed out that the folks that designed that sign did it very cleverly and very efficiently, because we can take it up the river one of these days and also put it over another building.
Of course, I'm referring to Radcliffe, the Michigan of the East, with Linda Wilson as one of our former colleagues. Niara Sudarkas had pointed out the number of college presidents that have been raided from the University of Michigan. In fact, when Chuck was named president of MIT, a member of the press asked me why, in the best language of operation desert storm, Michigan had become the mother of university bureaucrats. I thought about it for a moment, and it's clear that we're kind of a boot camp for higher education.
After where else can you be faced with navigating the fearsome bureaucratic labyrinths of higher education, dodging the deans firing squad, evading the foraging faculty, outlasting the only Trotskyite student demonstrators remaining on the face of the planet, passing political correctness tests across the entire spectrum, learning the secret of town gown relationships through intense negotiations with the People's Republic of Ann Arbor, being pilloried by The Michigan Daily as an enemy of the people, and in the same week by The Michigan Review for betraying Western civilization, facing the forces of darkness lurking in our state legislature, soothing savage donors surmounting the government audit of flowers and liquor bills and, I suppose, inauguration events, eventually, and putting together a $2 billion budget. After all of that, you're ready to take your place at any of the battlements of higher education.
For those who know him, Chuck Vest may seem to be a very unlikely survivor of such a tough trial by fire. Indeed, to some of you, he may seem like an unlikely warrior altogether, modest and soft spoken, humane, decent, scholar scientist, slow to judge but quick to defend the underdog, a listener and a learner. Chuck might also appear to be the last person to lead a charge into battle, but I believe these appearances are quite deceiving.
First of all, as I've noted, he's already a decorated veteran. Then, too, Chuck has a zealous side. I've never known anyone with a more fierce sense of integrity, and more unwavering commitment to justice, or a more steady moral courage. He's truly a man for all seasons. He's definitely the right man for this place and this season.
When higher education and science are both under unprecedented hostile fire, I promise you, MIT, the scientific community, American higher education, that all of us can look to Chuck Vest with easy confidence. He will be a vigorous, perseverant, and victorious champion of our cause. He will be a voice of reason and integrity in the halls of science and education, as well as in government and in public life. He will learn the admiration and affection of everyone here at MIT just as he's done at Michigan.
When Chuck was considering the possibility of moving to MIT, we used to talk a good deal about this marvelous institution, its leadership in science and technology, it's extraordinary faculty and student body, its great tradition. But of course, there were other attractive features, the fact that it had no law school, no medical school, it did not award honorary degrees, and it had no revenue sports, although one of your colleagues told me that, in fact, chess is rapidly becoming a revenue sport at MIT.
Since we realized that Chuck and Becky, while lured by these characteristics, will nevertheless experience some withdrawal symptoms, we've arranged for gradual transition. Chuck, you should know that on September 7, we've arranged to bring the entire University of Michigan football team to Boston. Ah, not to worry. We're not going to challenge MIT, at least yet. Rather, we're going to challenge Boston College across the Charles. That's the warm up before the next week we have to face Notre Dame and Florida State back to back in Ann Arbor.
However, in keeping with the spirit of this occasion, I wanted to tell you that we expect to see the maize and blue flags flying over the president's house both at our colonies at MIT and at Radcliffe, for that reason-- I brought one for Linda Wilson, as well. We also expect to hear the strains of the Michigan fight song within these hollowed walls. Hail to the victors valiant, hail to Chuck and Becky Vest, hail to the champions of the East. Congratulations.
GRAY: It is now my privilege to invite Chuck and Becky to come up here. I do not offer you equal time, but an opportunity to speak in your own defense.
VEST: Thank you, Chairman Gray, Senator Kennedy, Mayor Wolf, President Buck, distinguished colleagues, family, friends. You'll be greatly relieved to know that I am not going to give a speech. I just want to answer a question that has been asked me over and over in the days preceding this event, and also throughout this morning. And that was, is there something that's scaring you, is there something you're nervous about, is there something that you're worried about?
There were two things, and I will share them with you candidly, now. The first was to recognize that this morning I had to come to the podium in Killian Court and accept what is probably the greatest challenge in American higher education, the task that's daunting, a job that some people think is so difficult as to be nearly impossible. And that, of course, was to follow Frank Rhodes to the speaker's platform. I actually had something like that as the beginning of my remarks, but after listening to Claude [? Carasonis, ?] Professor Tabscott, and Paul Gray and others, I decided that there was so much eloquence that you might not even get the joke.
The second thing was an apprehension that remained with me as a deep anxiety until just five minutes ago, and that was what kind of retribution Jim Duderstadt was going to bring to me after the havoc that I wreaked upon him at his inauguration. Fortunately, it was relatively mild, Jim. But seriously, all we really want to say is thank you. It is an unbelievably touching experience to recognize that here in a single room we have not only our new colleagues and friends from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an incredible group of dignitaries who have come here today to pay homage to this institution, but also people from literally every stage of our lives. There are people here today who went to grade school with me, people who went to college with us, people who were part of our Ann Arbor years, as well as those that we are beginning now in Cambridge.
And I just cannot tell you what a thrill it is that all of you are here. I want to say only that there are two other people we wish very much were here today, and that, of course, my parents, who are here in spirit, unable to make the trip, but I did talk to them on the telephone immediately after the ceremony and they know what's going on. They've been following the hours through the script, Mary, and we're right on time, so they know exactly what's happening now.
But I just want to thank all of you, and particularly those of you who I cannot begin to enumerate, who have given me so much over the years and sent me on my way to the task that Becky and I now take upon ourselves. It's a wonderful opportunity. It's literally, as I have told many people, a call to national service, and we feel, already, a very integral part of this warm and wonderful community, and we look forward to the years ahead. Thank you very much.
VEST: I won't add but just one second to what's already been said here. But I would just like to say that in a job like this, especially the part that I have, that the love and the support of family and friends both far and near is so terribly important. And I really appreciate everyone who has come today to celebrate this with us, and I am counting and looking forward to your continued support. Thank you.
GRAY: As this luncheon draws to a close, I would like simply to express my appreciation on behalf of the Institute, on behalf of its governing board, to all of those folks who joined in this program today to bring special and very personal greetings to Chuck and Becky. All of us here today have a sense of the elements of encouragement, of respect, of affection, of support, of love, that is represented here today. And you have, from all of us, our support and our good wishes as you carry on with the leadership of this institution. This inaugural luncheon is adjourned. Thank you very much.