Office of the MIT President

Presidents of the Institute

Name Entered into office Inauguration Left office
L. Rafael Reif
 July 2, 2012 September 21, 2012
Susan Hockfield
December 6, 2004 May 6, 2005 July 2, 2012
Charles Marstiller Vest
October 15, 1990 May 10, 1991 December 6, 2004
Paul Edward Gray
July 1, 1980 September 26, 1980 October 15, 1990
Jerome Bert Wiesner
July 1, 1971 October 7, 1971 June 30, 1980
Howard Wesley Johnson
July 1, 1966 October 7, 1966 June 30, 1971
Julius Adams Stratton
January 1, 1959

(see note 12)
June 15, 1959 June 30, 1966
James Rhyne Killian
October 15, 1948

(see note 11)
April 2, 1949 January 1, 1959
Karl Taylor Compton
July 1, 1930 June 6, 1930 October 15, 1948

(see note 10)
Samuel Wesley Stratton
January 1, 1923 June 11, 1923 June 30, 1930
Elihu Thomson, Acting November 10, 1921

(see note 9)
January 1, 1923
Ernest Fox Nichols
July 1, 1921 June 8, 1921 January 4, 1922

(see note 8)
Elihu Thomson, Acting
March 10, 1920

(see note 7)
July 1, 1921
Richard Cockburn Maclaurin
June 1, 1909 June 7, 1909 January 15, 1920

(see note 6)
Arthur Amos Noyes, Acting
July 1, 1907 June 1, 1909
Henry Smith Pritchett
October 1, 1900 October 24, 1900 July 1, 1907
James Mason Crafts
October 20, 1897

(see note 5)
none June 30, 1900
Francis Amasa Walker
November 10, 1881 none January 5, 1897

(see note 4)
William Barton Rogers December 10, 1879

(see note 3)
none November 10, 1881
John Daniel Runkle
October 3, 1870

(see note 2)
none June 12, 1878
William Barton Rogers
April 8, 1862

(see note 1)
none May 17, 1870

The Office of the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was established at an organizational meeting in 1862 following the incorporation of MIT on April 10, 1861 (Massachusetts Acts of 1861, Chapter 183), as a three-part body consisting of a “society of arts, a museum of arts [industrial arts], and a school of industrial science.” The president is the chief executive officer of MIT and serves as an ex officio member of the MIT Corporation and of the following Corporation committees: the Executive Committee, of which he is chairman, the Development Committee, and the Membership Committee.


(1) On April 8, 1862, Rogers was elected the first president of MIT. He and the other officers elected in April retained their offices until the first annual meeting, May 6, 1862, when they were again formally elected pursuant to the bylaws. He was named principal of the School of Industrial Science when it finally opened in 1865, a title shortly changed to president. Rogers was granted leave of absence in December 1868 because of illness, and the Government (later called the Corporation) accepted his resignation in May 1870.

(2) Professor John Runkle was named president pro tempore on December 3, 1868, because of the failing health of W. B. Rogers. He was elected president October 3, 1870, serving until his resignation in 1878.

(3) On Runkle’s resignation in 1878, Rogers was named president pro tem June 12, 1878, and he was again elected president in December 1879.

(4) President Walker died in office January 5, 1897.

(5) Following the death of Walker, Professor Crafts was elected chairman of the faculty January 19, 1897, by the Corporation Executive Committee. He was further appointed to oversee the School of Industrial Science by the Corporation Executive Committee on January 19, 1897, and later appointed president, effective October 20, 1897. He resigned effective “at the end of the school year,” 1900.

(6) President Maclaurin died in office January 15, 1920.

(7) On January 20, 1920, the Executive Committee of the Corporation appointed Professors William H. Walker, Henry P. Talbot, and Edward F. Miller as an Administrative Committee to perform the duties with respect to the internal affairs and management of the Institute normally the responsibility of the president. Walker soon resigned and was replaced on March 1 by Professor Edwin B. Wilson. In March Elihu Thomson, a member of the Corporation since 1898, was appointed acting president without day-to-day responsibilities. The Administrative Committee would continue until January 1, 1923, with Professor Charles Ladd Norton replacing Wilson on May 18, 1922. (See Note 8)

(8) President Nichols was scheduled to take office on July 1, 1921. His inauguration, however, took place on June 8 of that year, two days before the Institute’s graduation exercises on June 10. Just after his inauguration he became seriously ill, was unable to take up his duties and submitted his resignation in November. It was accepted by the Executive Committee on November 10, 1921 and became effective when confirmed by the Corporation at its next meeting on January 4, 1922. The Administrative Committee had continued to function during this period and would continue to do so until January 1, 1923.

(9) On November 10 Elihu Thomson was reappointed acting president to serve, under the same arrangements as his prior appointment, until a president was elected and in place.

(10) In the fall of 1948 President Compton was called to Washington to serve as chairman of the Research and Development Board, an agency established to oversee military scientific research efforts in the postwar period, and he resigned as president of the Institute. On October 4, 1948, he was elected chairman of the Corporation, effective October 15, at which time his resignation as president would also become effective.

(11) In September 1948 the Corporation had designated James R. Killian to succeed Compton as president, the date to be specified later. Early in October they voted to make the transfer effective October 15, 1948, with Compton becoming chairman of the Corporation. In November 1957 Mr. Killian was granted a leave of absence to serve in Washington as Special Assistant to the President [Eisenhower] for Science and Technology.

(12) Julius A. Stratton was appointed acting president November 1, 1957. He was elected to the presidency on December 1, 1958, to take office on January 1, 1959, when Mr. Killian would become chairman of the corporation. Dr. Stratton retired in 1966 at the then mandatory retirement age of 65.

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries 1997; updated August 2004, May 2005