In Memoriam: Charles M. Vest, Former MIT President, Dies at 72

Donna Coveney, MIT

Charles M. Vest
January 06, 2014

Charles M. Vest, who was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1990 to 2004, died in Arlington, Va., on December 12 of pancreatic cancer. He was 72. MIT's endowment grew from $1.4-billion to $5.1-­billion during his tenure. He is noted for increasing the number of women and members of minority groups in leadership positions at MIT and for being a pioneer in online education through the university's OpenCourseWare project, which has put materials from more than 2,000 courses online. Mr. Vest was president of the National Academy of Engineering from 2007 until last year.

Janet D. Rowley, a professor of medicine, molecular genetics, cell biology, and human genetics at the University of Chicago, who identified a genetic cause of leukemia, died on December 17. She was 88. Her research in the 1970s showed that specific chromosomal changes cause certain types of leukemia. Those findings led to the development of drugs to helped manage the diseases. She was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1998 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

Richard D. Heffner, a professor of communications and public policy at Rutgers University for nearly 50 years who was still teaching two courses there, died suddenly on December 17 in New York City. He was 88. His book A Documentary History of the United States and his edited edition of Tocque­ville's Democracy in America are widely used in classrooms. Mr. Heffner was also known as creator and host of The Open Mind, an interview show that aired on public television from 1956 until his death.

Walter Y. Oi, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Rochester who played a role in the abolition of the military draft, died on December 24. He was 84. An expert on applied economic theory and labor markets, he served as a staff economist on the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Forces. His analysis of the unseen costs of conscription helped persuade President Richard Nixon and Congress to let the draft expire, in 1973, the university said. Mr. Oi, who was blind, later served as a vice chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. He was on Rochester's faculty from 1967 until his retirement, in 2008.