Bloomberg News

MIT’s First Woman President Susan Hockfield to Step Down

February 17, 2012

(Adds Hockfield’s comment in fourth paragraph.)

Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Susan Hockfield, the first woman president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will step down from the post as the college plans for a new fundraising campaign.

Hockfield, 60, who has led the school since December 2004, will stay on until a successor is in place, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based MIT said today.

Under Hockfield, the school raised almost $3 billion, according to a statement on MIT’s website. The president will need to focus full attention on the next fundraising campaign that might last as long as nine years, Hockfield said in a telephone interview.

“I needed to consider when would be the best time for a transition,” Hockfield said. “MIT has enormous momentum right now and it just seems to me that the best time to transition is a moment of strength.”

Hockfield, MIT’s 16th president, came to the school after serving as provost at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. At her inaugural address, she announced her intention to establish the MIT Energy Initiative that’s since developed new solar cells, wind turbines and fuel-producing viruses.

Startup Created

MIT research led to the startup of A123 Systems Inc., a Waltham, Massachusetts-based company developing and making new batteries. Hockfield sits on the board of General Electric Co., which owns 5.3 percent of the battery maker, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

She also pointed to the work her administration has done to merge life sciences with the physical sciences and engineering in centers such as the Ragon Institute and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

A graduate of the University of Rochester, she began her career as a neuroscience researcher, working under James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. In 1985, she moved to Yale, where she became dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences before serving as provost.

Hockfield is among a small number of women to lead elite research universities, including Drew Faust at Harvard University, Shirley Tilghman at Princeton University, Ruth Simmons at Brown University and Amy Gutmann at the University of Pennsylvania, all members of the Ivy League in the northeastern U.S. Simmons announced last year she would step down this year.

Merit-Based Advancement

Hockfield said she was fortunate to have grown up in an era when the budding space program inspired young women and men alike to pursue careers in science, and when women from previous generations had paved a path toward senior positions in education.

“I see every possibility that the U.S. will continue in this direction of global leadership in opening opportunities for everyone based on merit, and not based on background,” she said.

Hockfield said she’ll remain on the MIT faculty. A committee to search for the next president will be appointed and include input from faculty, students and the school’s board of trustees, known as the MIT Corporation, the university said in the statement.

MIT’s endowment was valued at $9.71 billion in June 2011, according to the school. It is the sixth largest in higher education, based on an annual survey of endowments by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute.

MIT raised $534.3 million in fiscal 2011, fourth among U.S. colleges and universities behind Stanford University near Palo Alto, California; Harvard; and Yale, according to data released Feb. 15 from the nonprofit Council for Aid to Education’s annual survey.

--With assistance from Rachel Layne and John Lauerman in Boston. Editors: Lisa Wolfson, Chris Staiti

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at

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