The MIT and OpenCourseWare communities are deeply saddened by the death last night of former MIT president Charles M. Vest. As MIT’s president, Vest convened the Committee on Lifelong Learning that proposed MIT OpenCourseWare in the summer of 2000, and he was an important early advocate within the MIT community for the program. His efforts led to the early funding that made MIT OpenCourseWare possible. From the MIT News obituary:
“Personally and professionally, Chuck Vest set an exceptional standard of intellectual clarity, moral courage, and generosity of spirit,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif says. “And there was no better example of his vision and values than the creation of MIT OpenCourseWare — the simple, elegant, unprecedented idea that MIT should make all of its course materials available online to anyone in the world, free. Thanks to Chuck’s leadership, OCW has become a source of outstanding content for 150 million global learners, the model for the global OpenCourseWare movement, and the foundation and inspiration for everything we are striving to achieve with edX and MITx.”
In 1999, Vest charged a faculty committee with considering how to use the Internet in pursuit of MIT’s mission. That committee, led by Professor Dick K. P. Yue, made a revolutionary proposal: the online publication of teaching materials for MIT courses, free and available to learners worldwide. By November 2007, OpenCourseWare had completed the initial publication of virtually the entire curriculum, more than 1,800 courses in 33 academic disciplines. MIT’s move would catalyze similarly bold efforts by universities around the world to democratize access to education.
“Chuck Vest was a staunch supporter and champion of MIT OpenCourseWare literally from day one. OCW would not have been possible without his singular vision, courage, and leadership,” says Yue, the Philip J. Solondz Professor of Engineering and Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering.
After stepping down as president of the Institute, Vest continued his direct involvement with MIT OpenCourseWare until his passing as a member of our External Advisory Board. We will miss his wisdom, warmth and humor, and our thoughts go out to his family and the many friends he had throughout the MIT community and beyond.