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December 16, 2013 - 11:49pm

Charles Vest, former provost, professor and Engineering dean, dies at age 72


Charles “Chuck” Vest, a former University Provost and Engineering professor and dean, died of pancreatic cancer Thursday night at his home near Washington, D.C. at the age of 72.

Vest was a pioneer in education, research and scientific cooperation across the world who pushed for racial and ethnic diversity and gender equality.

Vest left the University in 1990 to become the fifteenth president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a position he held until 2004. He was also president of the National Academy of Engineering from 2007 to early 2013.

Vest received many awards including The National Medal of Technology, the highest honor the United States can give a citizen for technological advancements. He also received the Vannevar Bush Award, awarded to leaders who have contributed to the United States through science, technology and public policy.

“Chuck Vest was regarded not only as one of the great leaders of higher education through his service to Michigan and MIT, but his leadership of the National Academy of Engineering was of immense importance to both the prosperity and security of our nation," James Duderstadt, former University president, said in a statement. "He will be missed greatly by his friends and colleagues."

Vest received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University and a master’s and doctorate degree from the University. He told Michigan Engineer magazine that he attributed all of his accomplishments to his alma maters and his work at MIT. He said he had “fond memories of Ann Arbor and everything it offered.”

"As so often happens with Michigan provosts, a university presidency was in his future; his leadership of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology extended well beyond Cambridge and benefited all of science, technology and higher education," University President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement. "I will miss his gentle demeanor and the grace that defined his personality and impact.”

Vest is survived by his wife and two children.