On a chilly spring weekend, with help from Oliver Smoot ’62, Car Talk’s Ray Magliozzi ’72, and a small army of MIT students, faculty, postdocs, alumni, staff, and friends, we launched—if not a thousand ships—a large number of more or less seaworthy objects, all of which managed to cross the Charles as part of “Moving Day,” our symbolic reënactment of MIT’s 1916 move from Boston. That evening, we launched a tremendous quantity of fireworks to celebrate the start of our second century in Cambridge. And most important, we launched the $5 billion MIT Campaign for a Better World.
The festivities were very MIT and very entertaining. (You know you are doing something right when it actually rains on your parade—and nobody minds.) But our underlying cause is deeply serious.
I believe that in the 21st century, research universities need to be leaders, not only in advancing knowledge and educating students but also in solving important global problems. In that spirit, the success of our campaign will be measured not in dollars alone but also in our ability to help deliver the answers humanity needs now.
Of course, aspiring to make a better world is nothing new for MIT.
A century ago, when the Institute was still in Boston, MIT’s 10th president, Richard Maclaurin, had the highest aspirations for what MIT could become. And when he met the visionary philanthropist George Eastman, he found a kindred spirit and a co-conspirator. Together, they formed the kind of superb partnership of ambition and generosity that has, from the very beginning, built MIT’s strength, raised its aspirations, and amplified its impact. In Eastman’s words, they believed that “the future of Technology should be big!” By making the audacious leap to create our grand, interconnected campus, they made it so.
Maclaurin and Eastman believed that MIT “had only to embrace its destiny to rise to a position of transcendent usefulness.” Today—if we can count on the enthusiasm and generosity of MIT’s alumni and friends, our modern-day philanthropic partners—I am certain that we will continue to strive to provide that transcendent usefulness to the world.
-L. Rafael Reif