CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — MIT provost L. Rafael Reif, an internationally recognized electrical engineer who learned to speak English after coming to the U.S. for graduate school from his native Venezuela, was named MIT's 17th president on Wednesday.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Corporation elected Reif to the position shortly before making the announcement. The 61-year-old Reif takes over as president July 2, succeeding Susan Hockfield who announced earlier this year that she is stepping down.
"I cannot tell you that this is a dream come true because it's a dream I never dared to imagine," said Reif, an expert in microelectronics who received graduate degrees from Stanford University. "I'm deeply moved by the trust you are all placing in me."
As provost, Reif has spearheaded a strategy that helped MIT weather the global financial crisis and led to partnerships with governments and the creation of new research centers around the world. He promoted a faculty-led effort to address race and diversity, and headed the development of the MITx online learning initiative and an edX online initiative with Harvard University.
Reif has overseen the school's Lincoln Laboratory, which operates for the U.S. Department of Defense. And prior to his provost duties, he was director of MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratories and served as associate head and later chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the school's largest academic department.
Joining the MIT faculty in 1980, Reif holds 15 patents and is co-author of more than 350 published papers in his field.
As president, Reif said, he will lead MIT by its traditional values of intellectual pursuit and a positive commitment to society. He said he will continue his practice of staying in touch with students and issues important to them. A focus on innovation, including the exploration of hybrid classroom models to better serve students, will be a priority, he said.
Hockfield commanded the school for nearly a decade and announced in February that she would step down. She was the first woman and the first biologist to lead MIT. During her tenure, MIT launched research initiatives on cancer, energy, the environment and manufacturing, as well as the initiative with Harvard.
Corporation Chairman John Reed said the selection process included an intense search and input from the MIT community. He described Reif as "someone with exceptional qualities."