New MIT President Susan Hockfield takes the helm by storm

‘The world has never needed MIT as much as it does now,’ says new president

“The world has never needed MIT as much as it does now,” Susan Hockfield told a packed audience at the May 6th ceremony formalizing her inauguration as MIT's 16th president. She went on to urge members of the community, “As MIT has always done, we must grasp the world's great challenges. We must seize the day.”

New MIT President Susan HockfieldHockfield's passionate speech inspired an audience that included more than 60 delegates from colleges and universities around the world, from President Lawrence Summers of Harvard to Maite Verde of the University of Zaragoza. The ceremony featured musical interludes by the MIT Chorallaries and the Gamelan Galak Tika and pieces composed for the inauguration by members of the MIT community, including Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison.

The inaugural festivities kicked off on Monday, May 2, with the opening of an interactive art installation, “White Noise, White Light,” created by MIT Professor Meejin Yoon and Matthew Reynolds '98 for the 2004 Athens Olympics. The week included symposia, concerts, a K-12 midway along the Stata Center student street, and ended with a blockbuster block party that drew 3,000 people, even though torrential rain and high winds drove it into the Johnson Athletics Center.

The theme of the inaugural week was “Uncommon in Common,” referring to the Institute's diverse, independent, but collaborative community of faculty, staff, and students from 50 states and more than 100 countries.

“It is a complex institution,” said Hockfield, elaborating on the theme of her inauguration, “but with a single mission and a single, unwavering standard of excellence in all of our departments and across the spectrum, from the most basic, curiosity-driven research to the most intensely practical applications. That uniform excellence makes possible uncommon collaborations — the kind that push boundaries. And that common purpose is our greatest strength, because all of us together are engaged in service to the great human family.”

Hockfield used the occasion to announce a new initiative on energy and the environment, remarking that the Institute should combine its “historic strength” in engineering with its more recent leadership in biology and brain and cognitive sciences to “tackle humanity's most urgent problems.”

In office since Dec. 6 of last year, Hockfield graduated from the University of Rochester and from the Georgetown University School of Medicine. She lives on campus in Gray House with her teenage daughter Elizabeth and her husband Thomas N. Byrne, clinical professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and internal medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.

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