Martin Trust Remarks at Center’s Grand Re-Opening

"Trust Center Will Remain ... For Many Decades to Come"

June 9, 2016
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The following are the remarks made by Martin Trust at the Grand Re-Opening Celebration of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship on June 1, 2016.

Let me first say that the Trust Family is most appreciative of the guests who have taken the time to gather here today to view the newly renovated expansion space at the Trust Center.

Many in the audience today will recognize that the Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship is a name that only dates back a little more than a decade. It must be remembered, however, that a long history of serious and successful entrepreneurship activity at MIT has existed for more than a century.

My involvement with MIT, and later the Trust Center, began in 1956 when I was fortunate enough to have received a $2,000 scholarship to pursue a Master’s Degree at MIT Sloan after receiving an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Cooper Union. The donor of the scholarship I received was a Cooper Union graduate named Mr. Rossi, a gentleman I had never met before — or even spoken to — but someone I clearly benefited from, because of his philanthropic generosity to an individual he had never laid eyes on before graduation day at Cooper Union … 60 years ago.

It should be pointed out that in 1956 tuition for my first year as a graduate student at MIT Sloan was eleven hundred dollars. When my second year at Sloan rolled around in 1957, I and my parents did not have the funds to pay for the final year at Sloan. Fortunately for me, MIT was kind enough to arrange a job for me that paid for my last year’s Sloan tuition. This job involved writing the questions for the back of a book being authored by two MIT faculty members under a contract awarded to MIT by the United States Army.

I mention these antiquated tidbits because there is for me a memorable connection between what transpired in the 1950s, the existence of the Trust Center today, and the substantial developments in the field of entrepreneurship that have occurred at MIT. It was in 1957 that I first met Ed Roberts while I served as a teaching assistant at Sloan.  Ed was a young grad student in the class in which I was the teaching assistant. The connection to the Trust Center that exists today is that Ed Roberts has been an active and dedicated Chairman of the Trust Center since its inception. Perhaps even more important to the broader field of entrepreneurship, Ed Roberts is also the individual who has researched, documented, and disseminated the positive effect that scores of MIT entrepreneurs have had on the economy of not only Massachusetts, but also our country and large segments of our world.

We at the Trust Center owe a debt of gratitude to Ed for the many accomplishments he has provided and the publications he has authored. His considerable body of work spread the impact that MIT entrepreneurship has generated both domestically and internationally. I want to personally thank Ed for his years of service to MIT and for his substantial contributions to the growth of entrepreneurship. His ongoing publications have shown to the world how entrepreneurship emanating from Massachusetts has materially enhanced the reputation that both MIT and Massachusetts enjoy today.

Looking to the future, I believe the Trust Center still has some crucial and exciting opportunities that lay ahead. A key reason for optimism regarding the Center is due to the competent and effective leadership exhibited by Bill Aulet and his able team. In spite of the fact that Bill has now recorded new world records for time spent riding in planes and trains on behalf of the Center and MIT, Bill has also managed to provide his enthusiasm and his substantial management skills to explain and enlarge the reputation of the Trust Center in this country and abroad.

The fact that we are here today to witness the expansion of the Center is testimony that Bill’s effective management style and his passion for the many projects he manages at the Trust Center is one important reason why we are now able today to celebrate the continued growth of this facility.

Many of those here today (myself included) have been made aware of MIT’s plans to further expand into adjacent parts of Cambridge. I believe the new construction project, which is destined to be built in Kendall Square, includes at least five new MIT buildings currently under design by distinguished architects. While the precise details of what will be built have not yet been confirmed, it’s generally expected that additional space devoted to MIT entrepreneurship initiatives is also getting careful consideration and will likely be housed in some of the newly built space.

I have also learned why being in an MIT-controlled environment is beneficial for the Trust Center. The undeniable fact is that MIT, even at its current size and with its formidable reputation, has never stopped considering — and adding — state-of-the-art study programs that are new, forward-looking, and insightful. A recent announcement revealed that MIT Sloan and the MIT Operations Research Center, under the guidance of Dean Schmittlein, was planning to add a course of study that leads to a Master of Business Analytics with the intention to then build a world-class master’s program in Data Science.

My own early attempt to build a competitive international manufacturing complex had an important start when I opened my first factory in the small country of Sri Lanka.  That first factory was 6,000 square feet in size, a little smaller than the space of the newly expanded Center we’re standing in.

Just a few weeks ago I received an email from a partner of mine who is based in Sri Lanka saying that he joined a private sector group that was interested in coming to MIT to determine if they could work out a joint venture agreement with MIT to allow deserving students from Sri Lanka to study here.

Upon completion of their studies they were to return to Sri Lanka and assist that country in building up their domestic manufacturing sector. A few weeks later a team from Sri Lanka did arrive and were hosted by a group of MIT staff members and faculty who are familiar with these joint venture arrangements at MIT. I also learned that this kind of discussion reports to Dr. Martin Schmidt, the MIT Provost. In the course of the initial discussions that took place here at the school, the delegation from Sri Lanka revealed that they would raise $50 million from private industry companies in Sri Lanka to pay MIT for the assistance they were hoping to negotiate.

What I understand is that the conversations to confirm the many details that need to be agreed upon in such a venture are still being worked on. But this is just one example of the international reputation that MIT enjoys. I should also mention this is not the first time this school has been approached by other countries to work on a type of joint-education project. In speaking to MIT staff members about this type of potential partnership, I learned there is already at least one such arrangement that already exists and is currently functioning outside the United States under the guidance of MIT.

To me these types of multi-country ventures suggest that MIT is going to continue to expand its intellectual and academic reputation. I expect the school will make other appropriate changes and, despite having a 100-year-old reputation for developing relevant programs geared to engineering, science, and business, this administration will still continue to make improvements. I expect these changes will improve the material they offer to the student community here in Cambridge as well as the populations they choose to serve in other parts of the world.

In closing, I believe we can all take comfort that the numerous and diverse constituencies that MIT interacts with and educates, including the Trust Center, will remain in very competent and thoughtful hands for many decades to come. Thank you.