Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Office of the President

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In November 1957 Julius Adams Stratton, then chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was appointed as MIT's acting president, retaining at the same time his title of chancellor. In December 1958 he was elected president of the Institute, effective January 1, 1959. His inauguration was held on June 15, 1959. Dr. Stratton served as president until June 30, 1966, when he retired at the age of 65 (at the time, a mandatory retirement age).

Further information about the Office of the President at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be found at

From the guide to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President, records of Julius A. Stratton, 1957-1966, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections)

Between 1883 and 1930 the following individuals served as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Francis Amasa Walker, 1881-1897; James Mason Crafts, 1897-1900; Henry Smith Pritchett, 1900-1907; Arthur Amos Noyes, acting president, 1907-1909; Richard C. Maclaurin, 1909-1920; Ernest Fox Nichols, 1921; Elihu Thomson, acting president, 1921-1922; and Samuel Wesley Stratton, 1923-1930.

Further information about the Office of the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be found on the website of the Institute Archives and Special Collections.

From the guide to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President records, Bulk, 1897-1931, 1883-1941, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections)

When Karl Compton took office as the ninth president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on July 1, 1930, he assumed duties somewhat different from those of his predecessor, Samuel Stratton. Compton accepted the presidency with the understanding that Stratton would assume the newly-created office of chairman of the Corporation and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Corporation. After Samuel Stratton's death in October 1931, the chairmanship was left vacant and President Compton presided over both Corporation and Corporation Executive Committee meetings. When Compton retired from the presidency in 1948, he assumed the position of chairman of the Executive Committee.

The office of the president was small in 1930, and the president made virtually all administrative decisions. The registrar, bursar, dean of undergraduate students, dean of graduate students, and director of admissons were the administrative officers assisting the president and each reported directly to him. The faculty, over which the president presided, had virtual control over academic programs and policies.

During the early months of 1932, Compton brought a proposed new organization before the Corporation and the Executive Committee for discussion. The plan proposed the creation of a vice president, three academic schools (Engineering, Science, Architecture) administered by deans, and two divisions (Humanities, Industrial Cooperation and Research). The positions of registrar, bursar, director of admissions, librarian, dean of undergraduate students, and dean of the graduate school were retained and the incumbents reported directly to the president and vice president. A new body, the Administrative Council, was to coordinate the administration of the Institute. This body consisted of the president, the vice president, the deans, the bursar, and the chairman of the faculty. The plan was adopted by the Corporation in March 1932.

Three administrative levels were implied in the plan: president; vice president; and deans and administrative officers. All administrative officers reported directly to the president. The first vice president, Vannevar Bush, served largely as an advisor to Karl Compton and as chief administrative officer in Compton's absence. They shared files and support staff.

As Compton saw the responsibilities of the deans:

The deans of the professional schools are responsible under the president for the maintenance of strong faculties in their respective departments, for the preparation and administration of budgets, and for the programs of instruction and research. The Dean of the Graduate School is responsible for administering the regulations in regard to admission and handling of graduate students, for the general policies regarding examinations and requirements for degrees and for the administration of fellowships.

Carroll L. Wilson was the first of many administrative assistants and executive assistants to the president. As the responsibilities of the office increased, so did the number of assistants and their responsibilities. In 1939 James Rhyne Killian joined the staff as executive assistant to the president. When Vannevar Bush left MIT in 1938, Killian assumed additional duties, responsibilities acknowledged with his appointment as executive vice president in 1943.

Through Compton's recommendation, many of his assistants secured positions of influence outside of MIT. This network of contacts served MIT especially well when the Second World War began in December 1941. Mobilization for war began at MIT more than a year before the declaration. Military training was mandated for all fit male students. Army, Navy, and National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) war research contracts totalled nearly $4 million during academic year 1940-1941. The president's office was one of the first offices affected by these changes--it felt a manpower shortage long before the draft was instituted.

When war was declared, the responsibilities and commitments of the Institute grew at a staggering rate, compounding its manpower shortage. Many of the responsibilities and burdens of the presidency fell to James Killian.

After the war ended in 1945, MIT's student body increased as did the number of important research contracts. Thus the administration expanded rather than shrinking to its pre-war size. In 1949, the new senior administrative post of provost was created. The primary focus of the provost was the administration and coordination of educational and research activities that did not fall within the jurisdiction of any single school.

In the fall of 1948 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. He resigned as president of the Institute. James Killian was named president-designate by the Corporation in September. Early in October the Corporation voted to make the transfer effective October 15, 1948, and on that date Karl Compton's position changed from president to chairman of the Corporation.

As James Killian's presidency began, he was quick to express his administrative style. He increased the responsibilities and authority of the senior administrative officers and chose to follow their work closely rather than having the work performed directly through the office of the president.

The president of MIT was now a national figure, expected to serve as a spokesman for the scientific and engineering community, to serve on the committees and boards that represented that community, and to hold himself available for government service. The president also was expected to participate in MIT fund raising campaigns and to encourage actively cooperative efforts between industry and MIT.

The decentralization of administration activated by response to the growth of the Institute during the postwar period accelerated during the 1950s. In 1951, two positions were expanded: vice president and provost, and vice president and treasurer. Three years later a vice president for industrial and governmental relations was appointed to assume responsibilities for sponsored research initially assigned to the vice president and provost. In 1956, the Corporation appointed Julius A. Stratton as chancellor. The chancellor served as deputy to the president, and as the general executive officer for all Institute affairs was authorized in the absence of the president to have all the powers and perform all the duties and functions of the president.

Decentralization increased the influence and responsibilities of coordinating groups, such as Administrative Council, the Budget and Personnel Committee, Faculty Council and coordinating bodies formed by Institute Schools.

In November 1957 President Killian was named Special Assistant for Science and Technology to President Eisenhower. From that date to December 31, 1958, Julius Stratton, MIT's chancellor, took on the additional role of acting president of the Institute. On January 1, 1959 Stratton became the eleventh president of MIT.

Bowditch, Ebenezer Francis Special Advisor to the President, 1956-1958 Briber, Robert M. Administrative Assistant to the President, 1955-1959 Bush, Vannevar Vice President and Dean, School of Engineering, 1932-1936 Compton, Karl Taylor President, 1930-1948 Creamer, Thomas Fishback Administrative Assistant to the President, 1940-1943 Edwardson, Claire Perham Administrative Assistant, 1930-1966 Ford, Horace Sayford Special Advisor to the President, 1952-1953 Hatch, Marjorie Arlene Senior Secretary, 1949-1951; Executive Secretary, 1951-1952 Horton, Allen W. Assistant to the President, 1936-1939 Kelso, James Gerald Executive Assistant to the President, 1956-1959 Killian, James Rhyne Executive Assistant to the President, 1939-1943; Executive Vice President, 1943-1945; Vice President, 1945-1948; President, 1948-1959 Kimball, Robert M. Administrative Assistant to the President, 1943-1948 Kispert, Malcolm G. Administrative Assistant, 1946-1951; Executive Assistant, 1951-1956 Loomis, Henry Assistant to the President, 1947-1950 McCormack, James Special Advisor to the President, 1955-1956 McMasters, Jane Secretary, 1939 to approximately 1950 Milne, Walter Ling Administrative Assistant to the President, 1958-1959 Pigott, Elizabeth Secretary, 1950-1956; Administrative Assistant, 1956-1959 Repshis, Edith Frances Nina Senior Secretary to the Vice President, 1955-1959 Richardson, Alice Cavins Senior Secretary to the Vice President, 1959 Stanton, Anne Elizabeth Lahey Secretary, 1930-1950; Executive Secretary, 1951-1959 Stratton, Julius Adams Provost, 1949-1951; Vice President and Provost, 1951-1956; Chancellor, 1956-1957; Chancellor and Acting President, 1957-1958; President, 1959- Wilson, Carroll Louis Assistant to the President, 1932-1937

From the guide to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President, records of Karl Taylor Compton and James Rhyne Killian, 1930-1959, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections)

In the early years of the Institute, the governing board consisted of the president, treasurer, secretary, and four Corporation members who, as officers of the Institute, bore the title of vice president. In 1870, MIT president John D. Runkle simplified MIT’s corporate organization to a president, a treasurer, and a secretary.(1)

The office of senior vice president was re-introduced in 1932, when Vannevar Bush was appointed vice president, serving in that position from 1932 to 1939. James R. Killian (acting president 1943-1946) and Julius A. Stratton (appointed vice president and provost in 1952) had similar responsibilities.

With the growth of MIT in the post-World War II period, and after the appointment of James Killian as president in 1948, MIT’s central administration became more complex and less centralized, and a number of vice presidencies were created to oversee various aspects of academics and administration. In 1970, President Howard Johnson appointed his assistant Constantine Simonides vice president and assistant to the president, and in July 1971 Simonides was appointed vice president in the office of the president. At that time the administrative organization of MIT also included a vice president, organization services; vice president, operations; vice president, academic administration; vice president and secretary; vice president and treasurer; and vice president for research. Constantine Simonides served as the senior vice president until his death in April 1994. While serving in that position, Simonides concurrently served as secretary of the MIT Corporation, a position he was elected to in 1985.(2)

As vice president, Constantine Simonides assisted the president and chancellor with institutional organization and planning, oversaw studies of academic programs and operations, and was responsible for Institute Information Services (now Public Relations Services), the MIT Press.(3) and the Medical Department.(4) Simonides was deeply involved with the governing bodies of the Institute; he was responsible for “coordination, agenda development, and supervision of staff support for the Institute’s academic councils and committees, and the senior executive group.”(5) He served on the Academic Council, the Administrative Council, the Committee on Educational Policy (later known as the Faculty Policy Committee), and the Faculty Council, as well as serving as secretary of the Executive Committee of the Corporation. Simonides also attended meetings of department heads, faculty meetings, and meetings of the Information Group. In 1980, with the retirement of John Wynne, vice president for administration and personnel, Simonides took on added responsibilities. These included senior responsibility for human resources and oversight of admissions, career planning and placement, student financial aid, student affairs, and athletics.(6)

After Simonides’ death, his areas of responsibility were split up among various members of the administration. Personnel matters became the responsibility of Joan F. Rice, formerly director of personnel, who was named vice president of human resources. Kathryn Willmore, executive assistant to the president, succeeded Simonides as secretary of the Corporation. James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations, was named vice president for administration. In his new role, Culliton was responsible for heading the Office of Admissions, Career Services and Preprofessional Advising, the Department of Athletics, and the Medical Department.(7)

In 1998 President Charles M. Vest created the Office of Executive Vice President to be responsible for the overall leadership, management, and organization of the Institute's administrative and financial affairs. The executive vice president serves on the Academic Council, the Administrative Systems and Policies Coordinating Council, the Budget and Finance Steering Group, the Building Committee, the Committee for Review of Space Planning, the Communication and Coordination and Planning Group, and the Town and Gown Committee, and participates in meetings of the Auditing, Executive, and Investment Committees of the MIT Corporation.(8) John R. Curry served as executive vice president from 1998 to 2005.

Constantine B. Simonides was born in Athens, Greece. He attended high school in the city until age seventeen, at which time he came to the United States as an exchange student to attend St. Andrew’s School in Delaware. He entered MIT as a freshman in 1952, and later transferred to Boston University, where in 1958 he received a bachelor of arts degree in economics. In 1960, he received a master’s degree from Harvard University in business administration. Later that year, Simonides began a life-long career at MIT. He was first appointed assistant to the director of the summer session, and in 1962 became assistant director of International Programs at the Sloan School of Management. In 1964 he was appointed assistant to the dean of the Sloan School, and in 1966 was appointed assistant to MIT President Howard Wesley Johnson. In 1971, President Johnson appointed Simonides vice president, and in 1985, Simonides was elected secretary and ex officio member of the MIT Corporation. He served as vice president of the Institute and secretary of the Corporation until his death in 1994.(9)


(1) Julius A. Stratton and Loretta Mannix, Mind and Hand (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), p.238-239.

(3) Jerome B. Wiesner, letter to the MIT community, Tech Talk, June 30, 1971, p.1.

(4) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Report of the President, 1970/1971, p.377.

(5) Jerome B. Wiesner, letter to the MIT community, Tech Talk, 30 June 1971, p.1.

(6) “Wynne to leave MIT, Reorganization to Expand Simonides’ Responsibilities,” Tech Talk, 27 February 1980, p.1, 8.

(7) Stacey E. Blau, “Administration Reshuffled After Simonides’ Death,” The Tech, 7 February 1995, p.7.

(9) “A Gathering to Remember Constantine B. Simonides,” 16 May 1994, box 36, Office of the Vice President (Simonides), Records, 1960-1994 (AC 276), Institute Archives and Special Collections, MIT Libraries.

From the guide to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President, records of Vice President Constantine B. Simonides, 1960-1995, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections)

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Place Name Admin Code Country
Technology Square (Cambridge, Mass.)
institutional relationships
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Academic affairs
Fund raising

Corporate Body

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