MIT president steps down after a decade at the helm of the institution

Massachusetts Institute of Technology President L. Rafael Reif is stepping down after more than 10 years at the helm, the school announced Thursday.

L. Rafael Reif, 71, said he will leave his position at the end of 2022. He plans to take a sabbatical before returning as a faculty member of the school’s electrical engineering and computer science department.

“Thanks to the exceptional efforts and impact of people at MIT in research, education and innovation, the institute consistently ranks among the top universities in the world,” he wrote in a statement.

Reif became school president in 2012 after serving as its provost for seven years. He has been at MIT since 1980, when he was hired as an assistant professor of electrical engineering.

As president, he is credited with enhancing the school’s stature as a hub of technological innovation.

His accomplishments include establishing a new business incubator in 2016 to help academics turn big ideas into businesses. Known as The Engine, he raised $430 million for 27 companies, the school said.

In 2018, he announced a $1 billion investment in artificial intelligence and computer science, centered around a new College of Computer Science to apply AI technology across all academic disciplines.

Under his leadership, MIT has “pushed the frontiers of basic and applied science that will benefit our world for years to come,” Diane Greene, chair of the school’s board of trustees, said in a statement.

Politically, Reif clashed frequently with the Trump administration over immigration policies that threatened to limit academic exchange.

When the Trump administration imposed a policy that would have banned international students from taking classes entirely online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, MIT and Harvard University filed a lawsuit challenging the rule. . The lawsuit won the support of dozens of American colleges and led to the policy’s withdrawal.

Reif was also a leading voice in higher education lobbying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and its protections for those brought to the United States as children. And amid federal efforts to crack down on academic espionage from China, he defended Chinese scholars who he said were being unfairly stigmatized.

Reif and MIT came under intense scrutiny in 2019 amid revelations that one of the school’s prestigious research labs had enjoyed close fundraising ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. .

The uproar led to the resignation of the famous MIT Media Lab. A subsequent school-ordered investigation revealed that Reif was not involved in decisions to accept Epstein’s funding, but it also revealed that Reif had personally signed a letter thanking Epstein for a financial donation in 2012.

In response to the discovery, Reif called it a “standard acknowledgment letter” and said he did not recall signing it, although he acknowledged it was his signature.

Financially, MIT experienced continued growth under Reif’s tenure. The institute’s endowment has grown from $10 billion in 2012 to $27 billion in 2021, continuing its position as one of the wealthiest colleges in the nation.

Originally from Venezuela, Reif came to the United States to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering at Stanford University. His parents were Jewish refugees who fled the Nazi regime in Eastern Europe.

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