Former MIT President Charles Vest Dead of Cancer at 72

12/13/13Follow @bbuderi

[Updated, Dec. 14, 2013--see below] Charles Vest, one of the leading contemporary figures of higher education, engineering, and science, and an early friend of Xconomy, has passed away. He was 72, and the cause was cancer, according to an announcement from MIT.

Chuck, as most people called him, was the down home, congenial president of “the Institute” from 1990 to 2004. He then served as president of the National Academy of Engineering in Washington, DC, from July 2007 until earlier this year. Despite his many accomplishments, he was always gracious, warm, and down to earth, with a slightly geeky style that rarely failed to charm.

“He was a wonderful human being—kind, thoughtful, highly likable, and a fine leader,” says legendary MIT professor Bob Langer.

“Nicest guy ever at MIT, and his evident good will could bring people together better than anyone else,” says MIT Media Lab professor Alex “Sandy” Pentland, [Editor's note: this quote added on Dec. 13, 2013]

More about his life and accomplishments are in the MIT release. And virtually every national news organization has or will soon carry a story of his life.

Vest’s death strikes home here at Xconomy. Part of the original group of 19 Xconomists, or loose editorial advisors, he encouraged our endeavors from the start. Indeed, one of our first feature stories, less than a month after he started at the National Academy of Engineering, was about his early experience in Washington. The article was called Dr. Vest Goes to Washington: Listening Hard as He Seeks to Revive Engineering and Technology.

I had the honor of serving for four years on MIT’s Visiting Committee for the Humanities at Vest’s request. And he wrote a blurb for one of my books. That was how he was: despite being massively busy, he was always approachable and willing to help if he could.

Chuck Vest was one of the greats.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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