Gerald L. Wilson retires

Gerald Wilson, former Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department Head (1978-1981) and Dean of the School of Engineering at MIT (1982-1992) retired this past June.

Gerald L. Wilson, former EECS Department Head and Dean of the MIT School of Engineering retired, June 2009.

Gerald L. Wilson, former EECS Department Head and Dean of the MIT School of Engineering retired, June 2009.

Gerry Wilson’s connection with MIT is a long one. He earned his BS and MS in electrical engineering in the years 1961 to 1963, respectively, and his ScD in mechanical engineering in 1965, at which time he became assistant professor. As the Philip Sporn associate, and later, professor, of energy processing (1973-82), Wilson created the Electric Power Systems Engineering Laboratory (EPSEL) in 1974. Eventually this lab, which he directed from 1975-80, became the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES). Wilson was the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering from 1982 to 2009, a position he held jointly with the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1993.

Early in his career, Gerry Wilson decided to follow his instinct for enabling his — and others’ at MIT — to apply their research efforts in a way that would have more immediate impact toward the betterment of society. His area of interest at that time was electric power systems engineering and energy conversion
systems though he recognized the need for applying this approach to other areas. In his words, “If it is to continue to serve as a useful contributor to the needs of mankind, MIT must share an interest in the needs of society today. It must continue to develop people who can combine the tools of science with an accurate understanding of the needs of society in order to create components, systems and ideas which improve life for all.”

With that conviction, Gerry Wilson and Sloan School of Management Director Lester Thurow created the ‘Leaders for Manufacturing (LFM) Program’ in 1987. The LFM was the first all-out genuine collaboration between Sloan and Engineering, and has been spectacularly effective and much copied. It was also the first time industry was brought into educational program development and operation as an equal partner. Today the LFM has grown and evolved, since June 2009, as the Leaders for Global Operations (LGO).

Gerry Wilson was the father of Project Athena, which was launched in 1983. As noted by former MIT president and EECS colleague Paul Gray: “It was not an easy task to persuade both DEC and IBM to gift computers, servers, etc. to MIT to get it started. This step changed the culture of computing for students at MIT, and has been a powerful educational tool.”

On the occasion of Wilson’s retirement, Paul Gray added: “Gerry is very smart, has great energy and motivation and insists on excellence in all that he commits himself to.”

2 Responses to “Gerald L. Wilson retires”

  1. Fereydoon Abtahi says:

    Professor Wilson was my undergraduate adviser back in 1966 when he and Professor Woodson brought about a revival of “electric power” engineering at M.I.T. Prof. Wison is a great educator and a fantastic teacher. I am still working in the area of electric power engineering and in fact I am now working on an IPP project in Jordan from where I am sending this email.
    If possible kindly forward my best personal greetings and gratitude to him.
    Fereydoon Abtahi; class ’68

  2. Ian Marsh says:

    I personally know him. He is a very nice man. He loves his students. Thanks for posting this wonderful note about him.

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