NAE president Charles Vest to deliver Hall Lecture Feb. 23

Charles M. Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will deliver the School of Engineering’s John R. and Donna S. Hall Lecture Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. in Vanderbilt’s Sarratt Cinema. A reception will follow the lecture.

Vest’s lecture title is “Engineering, Innovation, and the Challenges of the 21st Century.” Vest served on the National Academies panel that produced the 2006 report – “Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.” It warned that the United State is in danger of falling behind in science and technology.

“This is the most exciting era for engineering and science in human history. A new generation of engineers will be inspired by the great human challenges of this century, and play a crucial role in addressing them,” Vest said.

Vest believes globalization and the changing nature of science and technology are driving worldwide change and opportunity in higher education, R&D, and innovation. “R&D spending is spread nearly uniformly around the world, and new players are rapidly emerging,” he said.

“Higher education is globalizing in both planned and unplanned ways. Innovation is key to the future vitality of the United States, and our innovation system may be due for another major transformation,” Vest said.

Vest earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from West Virginia, and M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. From 1968 to 1981, Vest was an engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

In 1981 he turned much of his attention to academic administration, serving as associate dean of engineering from 1981-86, dean of engineering from 1986-1989, when he became provost and vice president for academic affairs. In 1990 Vest became president of MIT and served in that position until December 2004. He then became professor and president emeritus.

In July 2007 he was elected to serve as president of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for six years. He has received honorary doctoral degrees from ten universities, and was awarded the 2006 National Medal of Technology by President Bush.

Vest was a director of DuPont for 14 years and of IBM for 13 years; was vice chair of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness for eight years; and served on various federal committees and commissions, including the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) during the Clinton and Bush administrations, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy and the Rice-Chertoff Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee.

He serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and foundations devoted to education, science, and technology.

The spring semester lecture is part of the John R. and Donna S. Hall Engineering Lecture Series established in 2002 to allow Vanderbilt engineering students hear renowned engineers from universities and agencies address engineering topics of particular interest.