Earlier today I read the news that MIT President Susan Hockfield will be stepping down. She has been president for 7 years, and will remain the position until her successor takes office.
My immediate reaction was one of disappointment. I became very active in the MIT Alumni Association during her tenure, including three years on the Board of Directors, so I was aware of and followed the progress of a lot of her initiatives. The accomplishments during her tenure are many, and are detailed in the announcement I linked to above. Though she has been hard it work for 7 years, it seemed to me like she was really hitting her stride, from increasing MITs presence and influence in DC, to improving student life on campus, to involving alumni around the world and focusing on how MIT can help solve the problems of the world.
After a few minutes, I realized that President Hockfield deserved a break, and that she had been hard at this job almost for the maximum amount of time someone can be President of the United States. I had the opportunity to speak with her five or six times over her tenure. She came out to Southern California several times to meet with alumni, and was always great at both sharing her focus as well as listening to our ideas. During my 10th reunion this last summer, she came by the Class dinner on Friday night, and though she was only supposed to be there for 45 minutes, she ended up staying for several hours, talking with anyone who wanted a few minutes, and even taking pictures in the photo booth.
When she became president it made headlines because she was the first female and the first life scientist to be president of MIT. Her headlines since that time have been because of the many ways she represented and pushed MIT to take bold action to solve the problems of the world, and I’m grateful for having the opportunity to meet her and learn from her as a leader.