CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Charles Vest, a Morgantown native and West Virginia University Board of Governors member, died Thursday night at age 72.
Vest died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Washington, according to MIT officials.
He served as MIT's president from 1990 to 2004, where he led groundbreaking online-education efforts and was praised for his push for education equality and his support of women and minorities in science.
Vest also served on the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and was the president of the National Academy of Engineering until earlier this year.
Vest was born in Morgantown and received a degree in mechanical engineering from WVU in 1963. His term on the WVU board was set to end in 2016.
Outgoing WVU President Jim Clements called Vest "one of the greatest men I have ever known" on Friday.
"He was also one of the giants in higher education, and I am so blessed to have been mentored by him through the WVU Board of Governors," Clements said in a statement. "His loss is one that touches so many around the world because his impact was literally that far-reaching. In every conversation and in every meeting over the past five years, I always knew how incredibly fortunate I was that our paths crossed here at his alma mater."
WVU's incoming interim president, E. Gordon Gee said, "Higher education has lost one of its greatest friends and advocates in Charles Vest."