CAMBRIDGE - Rafael Reif, named the 17th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Wednesday after 32 years at the school, almost did not come to MIT at all.
Courted as a postdoctoral scholar in 1979, he was so put off by the university’s image as “this cold place where nobody talks to each other’’ that he repeatedly refused a job interview. To be polite, he told a persistent recruiter there was only a 5 percent chance he might like the school.
But when the recruiter pointed out that “five is not zero,’’ Reif gave MIT a skeptical shot - and never left.
“I interviewed with all these big names,’’ he said. “They were down to earth, the nicest people that give you their time and are clearly interested in you. . . . When I saw that, I said, ‘This is it.’ ’’
Reif, currently MIT’s provost, will become president July 2, replacing Susan Hockfield, who announced in February her intention to step down after more than seven years in the post.
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