The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has named MIT President L. Rafael Reif the recipient of its 2022 Simon Ramo Founders Award.
Reif, who served as president of MIT for more than 10 years, is being honored “for his pioneering leadership in reinventing and advancing higher education, academic entrepreneurship, the future of computing, the future of work, durability, and semiconductor technology,” according to the academy’s citation.
The Founders Award was established in 1965 by the NAE to honor an outstanding member or international member who has supported the ideals and principles of the NAE through professional, educational, and personal achievement and achievement. Reif accepted the award Sunday at the NAE’s annual meeting.
“I am thrilled to be recognized by the National Academy of Engineering and its members because choosing to become an engineer was one of the most important decisions I have ever made,” said Reif. “As a leader, you often have to make important decisions under conditions of great uncertainty – that’s exactly what engineering trains you to do.”
Reif joined MIT in 1980 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering and then served seven years as provost, becoming MIT’s 17th.president in 2012. He announced in February that he resign of the role at the end of 2022.
As President, Reif led the Institute through a period of dynamic growth as well as new challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic. He oversaw the creation of an innovation ecosystem on campus and in Kendall Square, including the formation of “hard tech” accelerator The Engine; launched the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing to bring the power of computing and artificial intelligence to all fields of study; helped reinvent the future of higher education through open source e-learning initiatives such as edX; and opened new avenues for MIT researchers to develop solutions to combat climate change.
Reif also promoted health and wellness among MIT students, faculty, and staff; advocated for the international MIT community; and worked to revitalize the MIT campus. And, he summoned experts from MIT to produce reports of national significance on topics such as the future of work and reasserting American leadership in the semiconductor industry.
After stepping down as president, Reif will take a sabbatical and then return to faculty in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
“We live in a time when society is hungry for principled, inspired and constructive leadership in the face of immense global challenges,” Reif said in his acceptance speech. “At a time when the needs are so great, I believe in the vision, potential and ability to do good in the members of the National Academy of Engineering, and that includes all of you here tonight. And I hope you each find many ways to help move the needle in the right direction for the good of humanity.
“I am deeply blessed to have been welcomed into this transformative profession so many years ago, and deeply grateful for the immense honor of this truly wonderful award.”