Fred Middleton first heard of MIT in the 1950s after he saw TV’s Art Linkletter interview an MIT student who said the school was “the most amazing place to study science.”
“That impressed me,” says Middleton, who later earned an MIT degree in chemistry in 1971 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1973. Now, Middleton and his wife, Carole, have made a series of major gifts to the Institute because, Fred says, MIT is indeed an amazing place for science.
Recently, the couple established a career development professorship in neuroscience because they’re interested in learning and memory and in understanding learning disabilities. Then they established the Global Habitability Award, a $25,000 annual prize that goes to an MIT community member who’s made an outstanding contribution to understanding the evolution of the earth’s habitat for supporting life. The goal is to help make the public aware of long-term global trends affecting the environment. And last year, they made a gift to the Energy Research Council Fund to help MIT develop its own agenda for using its resources to develop energy solutions. “The public and the world need help right away in rethinking energy sources and utilization,” Fred says.
“The energy needs of the country are significant from a total economic standpoint and also from a national security standpoint, and we need new ideas and solutions, which will be created by science and engineering. Our gift is to support MIT to get the ball rolling.”
Middleton began his career in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, and later he was VP for corporate planning and development at Chase Manhattan Bank. In 1978, he joined fellow MIT chemistry graduate Robert Swanson to found Genentech, where he was CFO and VP of finance and corporate development. In 1985, he founded Morgan Stanley Ventures, then became managing director and general partner of Sanderling Venture Partners, where he has worked for 19 years assisting start-up companies in the biomedical industry.
“MIT can do a lot in the areas of energy and in the earth’s habitability,” he says, “not only because of its expertise but also because of the enormous respect and clout that MIT carries with the public around the world and also with the government. We feel MIT can help provide leadership for a more enlightened public policy ultimately benefiting the whole world.”