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In memoriam: Dana Mead

Former MIT Corporation chair Dana Mead helped advance the Institute’s interests on many fronts.
February 27, 2019
MIT Corporation

Dana G. Mead, PhD ’67, a prominent business leader, military officer, and former White House official who served as chair of the MIT Corporation from 2003 until 2010, died on October 31 in Boston.

Mead was a forward-looking leader who helped oversee a period when the Institute expanded its research interests and diversified the campus community while remaining at the leading edge of engineering, science, and innovation.

During his tenure, MIT increased investment in the life sciences and launched new projects such as the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). The Institute also expanded its international presence and, under Mead’s supervision, hired its first female president, Susan Hockfield, who was also the first life scientist to hold the position.

“I had the immense privilege of learning from [Dana’s] wonderful leadership style and observing his intense commitment to sustaining MIT’s excellence,” said President L. Rafael Reif, adding: “MIT continues to reap the benefits of his insight and thoughtful service.”

Hockfield said, “Dana advised and encouraged me, generously sharing the prodigious wisdom he had gained over the course of a lifetime of service and leadership.”

Mead, born in Cresco, Iowa, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1957 with a BS in engineering and then served as an Army officer for over two decades, including assignments as a combatant and strategist in Vietnam.

In 1967, Mead completed his PhD studies in MIT’s Department of Political Science, having been selected for a fellowship as an officer. He then served in the White House Fellows program before taking a professorship at West Point. He subsequently forged a successful career in the private sector, notably as chair and CEO in the 1990s of the conglomerate Tenneco.

Among many other honors, Mead was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.

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