MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

"At the pleasure of the President"

Shown here are letters written by U.S. Presidents
between 1908 and 1979 to members of the MIT community,
mostly the Institute's Presidents, many of whom served
in government "at the pleasure of the President."

[Click on image to read letter]

John Ripley Freeman (1855-1932) was an engineer much in demand as a consultant on hydraulics projects including the Grand Canal in China, the Charles River Dam in Boston, and the Panama Canal. He received the S.B. in civil engineering in 1876 from MIT. Freeman served as an active member of the MIT Corporation for forty years.

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt to
John Ripley Freeman,
1908

Letter from President William Taft

William H. Taft to
John Ripley Freeman,
1909

Letter from President Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson to
John Ripley Freeman,
1918

Samuel W. Stratton developed the plan for the National Bureau of Standards, which was established in 1901. He was appointed by President McKinley as its first director, serving until becoming MIT's eighth President in 1923. Upon leaving the presidency in 1930, Stratton became the first Chairman of the MIT Corporation.

From William Harding

Warren G. Harding to
Samuel W. Stratton,
1923

Karl Taylor Compton, MIT's ninth President (1930-1948) was appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 to serve on the National Defense Research Committee, which was formed to coordinate and oversee U.S. defense research in the shadow of world war. From 1941 to 1945 he held several important positions with its successor, the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). In 1948 Compton was appointed by President Truman to head the Research and Development Board, which was formed to oversee scientific preparedness in the postwar period.

From Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt to
Karl T. Compton,
1940

From Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover to
Karl T. Compton,
1949

From Harry Truman

Harry S. Truman to
Karl T. Compton,
1949

James R. Killian was MIT's tenth President, serving from 1948-1959. In 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him Special Assistant for Science and Technology, in which position Killian formed the President's Scientific Advisory Committee. He was a member of many government and advisory groups, including the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1961-1963) and the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament (1969-1974). He was chairman of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television (1965-1967), which led to the formation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, of which he was director from 1968 to 1974.

From Dwight Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower to
James R. Killian,
1961

From John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy to
James R. Killian,
1961

From Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson to
James R. Killian,
1967

From Richard Nixon

Richard M. Nixon to
James R. Killian,
1974

From Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford to
James R. Killian,
1975

From Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter to
James R. Killian,
1979


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