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Energy, Ideas, and Wisdom: A Tribute to Alex d’Arbeloff

The recent election of Dana Mead as the new chairman of the MIT Corporation brings to an end the outstanding six-year term of outgoing president Alexander V. d’Arbeloff ‘49. “Alex d’Arbeloff has been a remarkable contributor of energy, ideas, and wisdom for MIT,” said Charles M. Vest HM, MIT president. “Alex is a man of great intellect and accomplishment. He has long been a great advisor to me personally, and his service to MIT has been extraordinary. The Institute owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Alex d’Arbeloff became the 15th president of the MIT Corporation in 1997, succeeding Paul E. Gray. During his tenure, d’Arbeloff led the MIT Corporation through a remarkable period of growth and achievement, including the record-setting success of MIT’s $1.6 billion Campaign for the Future.

Record of Achievement

Mr. d’Arbeloff’s volunteer service to MIT has ranged from traditional volunteer roles such as service on his 50th-reunion gift committee to unconventional dinners and one-on-one meetings with young MIT entrepreneurs. He brought creativity and ingenuity to all of his work at the Institute, from his service as a faculty member to his chairmanship of the corporation.

Renowned internationally for his role in building Boston-based Teradyne into one of the world’s leading makers of semiconductor test equipment, Mr. d’Arbeloff is also a director at Sematech, BTU, Stratus Computer, and several private companies. He continues to be actively involved in building new companies and will also return to the Sloan School faculty as professor of the practice of management, with a focus on entrepreneurship.

Dynamic Duo

Mr. d’Arbeloff and his wife, Brit d’Arbeloff, SM ‘61, have been long-time supporters of education at MIT. Together, they established a chair in mechanical engineering, contributed to the renovation of the d’Arbeloff Laboratory in mechanical engineering, and in 1999 gave the Institute $10 million to establish the Alex and Brit d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education.

Unique in its focus on the process of education itself, the Fund for Excellence supports innovative teaching methods in science and engineering and has led to the development of some extraordinary student and faculty projects. A list of funded projects can be found at web.mit.edu/cet/init/darbeloff.html.

Changing of the Guard

Mr. d’Arbeloff ceded the chairmanship on July 1, 2003, to Dana G. Mead, who has been a member of the corporation since 1996. Retired chair and CEO of Tenneco, Mead is a West Point graduate who received a PhD in political science from MIT in 1967.

“Nancy [Mead’s wife] and I are being asked to fill some very big shoes,” said Mead. “Brit and Alex d’Arbeloff provided such great leadership and contributed to the welfare of MIT in so many ways, we can only hope to emulate their enduring example. It is a very high bar indeed.”

Summing up his remarkable time as the corporation’s president, d’Arbeloff continued to put the emphasis on the Institute.  “I have been honored to serve as president,” he said. “No matter how big a company grows, it does not have the scope of MIT. It simply can’t contribute to society the way this institution can. The idea that I could contribute to this institution of excellence, to such a special place that has this impact on society, well, all I can say is, I’ve been truly honored.”

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