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Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President and Chancellor, records of Jerome B. Wiesner

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AC-0008

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection is composed primarily of records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The dates of the records in the collection span from 1960 to 1984, though the bulk was created between 1966, when Wiesner was appointed provost, and 1980, when he retired as president of MIT. The collection also includes records created when Wiesner was director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (1952-1960), dean of science (1964-1966), and provost (1966-1971). There are a few files from Wiesner’s tenure as Science Advisor to the President (John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson) from 1961 through 1964.

The Institute records in the collection encompass all aspects of life at MIT and reflect the widespread responsibilities of the president. The collection documents an elaborate bureaucratic institution striving to achieve academic and research excellence. Though Wiesner, Chancellor Paul Gray, and Provost Walter Rosenblith divided the responsibilities of the office of the president, Wiesner was kept informed of the academic and research programs and their needs, the administration and organization of the Institute, staffing and faculty, and ongoing equipment and facility needs. Wiesner’s major responsibilities revolved around fund raising, especially the Corporation Leadership Campaign (boxes 220-222); alumni/ae groups; and representing MIT beyond the campus.

A large part of Wiesner’s time was spent working with other academic and educational entities to advocate for federal and private funding for institutions of higher learning as well as raising funds for MIT, and the collection is very rich in documenting his advocacy and fund raising activities. Some of the groups MIT worked with were the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities (box 111), the Association of American Universities (boxes 112-116), the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (boxes 116-118), and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (boxes 125-126). In the 1970s institutions of higher learning faced escalating research costs and cuts in federal and private funding, and they needed to increase revenue. At MIT, tuition was increased, reductions were made to administrative and academic staff as well as faculty, and fund raising efforts were intensified. The fruits of MIT’s fund raising supported capital projects to refurbish or replace outdated buildings and equipment, endowed professorships, provided additional support for special projects in existing programs or start-up funding for new programs, and nurtured the arts on campus. MIT strengthened its Industrial Liaison Program (boxes 52-53, 239-240) to increase its funding from corporations for specific research and training programs. Wiesner traveled frequently to visit various MIT alumni clubs to maintain and nurture ties to MIT (boxes 14-15), and to encourage financial support from alumni.

The contents of the collection also reflect the response by MIT and various members of the MIT community (students, faculty, staff) to the society and the culture of United States in the late 1960s and 1970s: student unrest and anti-war protests (boxes 28, 93-98, 108), the growth of the feminist movement (boxes 109-110), efforts to increase the presence of minorities on campus (boxes 18, 32, 44, 69, 98), federal mandates regarding affirmative action (boxes 9-11, 44), environmental concerns (boxes 26, 72, 83, 92), concerns about bio-engineering (boxes 28, 36), the divestment of funds (box 55), classified research at the Instrumentation Laboratory [precursor of Draper Laboratory] (boxes 195-196), and international issues, especially changing United States relationships with Iran (box 62) and China (box 25-26).

The development of many new educational and research programs is documented in the collection, such as the Science, Technology, and Society Program (box 86); the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program [UROP] (box 103); the Education Research Center [later the Division for Study and Research in Education] (boxes 39-41); programs with Wellesley College (boxes 108-109); and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (boxes 36-38, 236-328).

Weisner’s efforts to increase the arts on campus are seen in the records of various committees and activities concerning visual and performing arts (boxes 16, 27, 33-34, 67, 169, 225-227, 253).

The collection also documents MIT’s commitment to community issues such as Boston’s school desegregation (boxes 119-120) and the Institute’s collaboration with the cities of Boston and Cambridge on issues of mutual concern (boxes 18, 24). Information about MIT’s celebration of the nation’s bicentennial is included in the collection as well (box 17).

A small part of the collection documents positions Wiesner held outside of MIT. Records in Series VI document trips Wiesner took to attend meetings in Washington D.C. of the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), and internationally as Science Advisor to the President of the United States or representing the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (boxes 251-252).


  • 1960 - 1984


Access note

This collection must be reviewed to identify any restricted material before access can be granted. Please submit your requests at least ten business days before your desired visit to allow time for this review. An archivist will respond within five business days to let you know whether your requested material is open. For complete information on this policy, see our Statement on Accessing Institute Records.

Intellectual Property Rights

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to Distinctive Collections. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the creating office.

Historical note

Top-ranking administrative offices at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have evolved over the lifetime of the Institute. The position of the president was established in 1862, when the Institute charter was accepted by MIT. The position of the chancellor was created for the first time almost a century later, in the 1950s, to share administrative responsibilities of the president. The following section provides a summary of the president’s functions and responsibilities, followed by a brief historical sketch of the office of the chancellor, and by a more detailed account of the structure of the office of the president and chancellor during the tenure of Jerome Wiesner and Paul Gray.
Office of the President

The president is elected by the MIT Corporation and serves as the chief executive officer of the Institute in charge of its administrative matters. In this capacity, he serves as ex officio member of the MIT Corporation and of the following Corporation committees: Membership Committee, Development Committee, and Executive Committee. The president presides over Executive Committee meetings and sets the agenda. As the chief executive officer, the president makes recommendations to the Executive Committee regarding the organizational structure of MIT and presides over the Institute’s faculty and Academic Council. The president is also responsible for initiating budgets, tuition increases, changes in the educational and research programs, new plant and facilities needs, and all other matters relating to Institute operations on which Executive Committee action or concurrence may be necessary or appropriate. In all matters that do not require Executive Committee action or concurrence, the president is responsible for both initiation and action.

Presidents of the Institute:

William Barton Rogers
John Daniel Runkle
William Barton Rogers
Francis Amasa Walker
James Mason Crafts
Henry Smith Pritchett
Arthur A. Noyes, acting president
Richard Cockburn Maclaurin
1920-1921, 1922
Elihu Thomson, acting president
Ernest Fox Nichols
Samuel Wesley Stratton
Karl Taylor Compton
James Rhyne Killian, Jr.
Julius Adams Stratton
Howard Wesley Johnson
Jerome Bert Wiesner
Paul Edward Gray
Charles Marstiller Vest
Susan Hockfield
Office of the Chancellor

The office of the chancellor of MIT is a position created at the discretion of the president and the Executive Committee. The Institute bylaws state: “the Chancellor shall have duties as the Executive Committee shall from time to time confer upon him.” The chancellor is a member, ex officio, of the Corporation and the Executive Committee and reports to the president and the Executive Committee.

The position of the chancellor was first created in 1956 under President Killian in recognition of the increased scope of responsibilities at MIT, its many and unusual national obligations during the period, and the consequent need for greater sharing and delegation of administrative responsibilities. Julius A. Stratton served as the first chancellor, 1956-1959. Stratton’s responsibilities included administration of the Institute’s academic program in all its parts, with all academic officers coming under his jurisdiction; serving as deputy to the president and general executive officer for all Institute affairs; and, in the absence of the president, holding the powers and performing all duties and functions of the president.

The position was reinstated in 1971, when Paul Gray was appointed chancellor under President Wiesner, with authority to serve as deputy to the president on all matters. Gray served in this post until he became MIT president in 1980.

As academic administration became increasingly complex, the position of chancellor was again reinstated by President Charles M. Vest who appointed Lawrence Bacow as the third chancellor of MIT. He served from August 1998 to June 30, 2001 and was succeeded by Philip L. Clay who served from July 1, 2001 to February 28, 2011.

Effective March 1, 2011, W. Eric L. Grimson became the fifth chancellor of MIT. His duties are to coordinate undergraduate and graduate education, manage and develop programs with institutional partners in industry and in the international arena, and have a major responsibility for long-range strategic planning for MIT.

Chancellors of the Institute:

Julius Adams Stratton
Paul Edward Gray
Lawrence Seldon Bacow
Philip L. Clay
W. Eric L. Grimson
Office of the President and Chancellor, 1971-1980

When Howard Johnson announced his intention to retire as MIT president as of June 1971, the Corporation appointed a presidential search committee to select the new president. The committee chaired by James Fisk nominated Jerome Wiesner as Johnson’s successor. At the same time, responding to the needs of the Institute, the committee recommended that the post of chancellor be reestablished and named Paul Gray, associate provost, to the position.

During the first year of their working together, Wiesner and Gray shared most of their responsibilities, the chancellor having major responsibilities for the Institute’s budget. In the fall of 1972 they divided their responsibilities to allow the president to concentrate on policies and strategies for the future development of the Institute, and the chancellor to assume general management responsibilities for academic, research, and administrative programs . Those changes led to modification of the reporting structure. Vice presidents were to report to the chancellor on all administrative matters, and the provost was to report on the academic and research programs. In addition, several other offices reported directly to the chancellor, including the Dean for Student Affairs, the Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Pre-professional Programs, the Assistant to the President and Chancellor for Minority Affairs, and the Director of Information Processing Services.

Recognizing the need to address the major issues facing the world such as those related to controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons, providing energy and food for exponentially growing populations, protecting the environment, and increasing industrial productivity, Wiesner and Gray set the goals of their administration to continue and enhance searching for the “ways to apply knowledge and skills of science and technology to the pressing problems of our society.” That meant providing the best scientific and technological education and fostering diverse research efforts relevant to the most important issues of today and to the anticipated needs of generations to come.

Educational and research initiatives introduced during Wiesner’s and Gray’s administration included creating the Center for Policy Alternatives in 1972 to examine technology and engineering problems and their relation to social issues. An interdisciplinary major in the School of Science was established in 1971 , fostering programs linking science, technology, and social policy, and promoting diverse selection in environmental studies, education, and law. The Division for Study and Research in Education, formed in 1973, focused on studies of knowledge structures, including learning processes. The new Institute requirement in Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences was approved in 1974, and the Writing Program was introduced the same year. Efforts to integrate the humanities into the education of scientists and engineers resulted in the establishment of the MIT Program in Science, Technology, and Society in 1978.

In the mid-1970s, the Committee on Research Structure, under the chairship of Professor Frank Press, evaluated the influence of the “national research climate” on research operations at MIT. In its report, published in 1976, the committee recommended enhancing the role of the research centers at the Institute to provide new sources of funding and research opportunities. It also recommended expanding research staff opportunities by creating new research positions in addition to the traditional teaching faculty structure.

Growing interest in the life sciences and health studies led to new major programs on the campus. The Center for Cancer Research, under Professor Salvador E. Luria, was created in 1972. The [Harvard-MIT] Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the College of Health Science, Technology, and Management were established in 1977 to provide venues for research and academic activities that were outgrowing the mandate of the Joint Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology.

The recognition of the importance of the arts and humanities in complementing educational and research activities led to the establishment in 1971 of the Council for the Arts, a volunteer group of alumni and others promoting development of the arts at MIT, and to the formation of the Corporation Visiting Committee for the Arts. President Wiesner’s strong support for the arts and his interest in exploring interactions between the arts and technology led in the late 1970s to the Arts and Media Technology project under the leadership of Nicholas Negroponte.

The ambitious, forward-looking goals of the Institute in the 1970s led Wiesner and Gray to create several new senior administrative posts during the first years of their tenure:

Missing Title

Special Assistant to the Chancellor (later Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Pre-professional Programs)
Assistant for Minority Affairs (later Assistant to the President and Chancellor for Minority Affairs)
Special Assistant to the President and Chancellor for Women and Work
Special Assistant to the President on Urban Resources
Assistant to the President for the Arts
The next major revision of the division of responsibilities between the president and the chancellor came in December 1977. For the duration of the Leadership Campaign, a major fund raising campaign launched by the Corporation in 1975, the president was to focus on the campaign-related activities in close collaboration with Howard Johnson—the leader of the campaign and chair of the Corporation. At the same time, the chancellor assumed responsibility for all management decisions regarding academic and administrative activities on the campus, including planning and developing strategies for the future. This change led to the transfer of a wide variety of functions and responsibilities from the president to the chancellor, including chairing committees and meetings. The position of the chancellor was discontinued in 1980 when Paul Gray became the president of the Institute in 19803.


84.6 Cubic Feet (254 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials


Guide to the Records of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Office of the President and Chancellor
Records of Jerome B. Wiesner, 1960-1984
Ready For Review
Nora Murphy, Alyssa Coddington, Judy Janec
Copyright 2004
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US