Ed Linde is president and CEO of Boston Properties, one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the country. On this day, he is sitting 19 floors off the ground in Boston’s Prudential Center — one of his firm’s many properties — and he is talking about having studied at MIT, a place he says he loves. “If we can help people who really have talent and potential, then we’ll have done something of great value,” he says.
Recently, he and his wife, Joyce, along with the Linde Family Foundation, announced that it would make a $25 million gift to MIT — one of the largest pledges to undergraduate financial aid in the history of the Institute.
“If a large number of people who receive these scholarships thrive and move forward to do great things — which they all have the potential to do — that’ll be great,” he says. “The ability to influence the course of the lives of as many undergraduates as we can feels very gratifying.”
Nearly 60 percent of MIT undergraduates receive scholarship aid from the Institute, while nearly 90 percent get aid in some form. “The history of MIT has always been one of allowing students to thrive and not to be deterred by the lack of funds,” he says. “We absolutely wanted MIT to be able to continue this policy.”
Linde says that in these economic times, he felt it was more important than ever to make a gift — to help educate leaders who have the ability to solve not only the economic crisis, but other world problems as well. He says he’s interested in “students tackling the problems of energy policy and energy creation. How do we become less dependent on oil?”
Also, he says: “The work that’s being done at MIT in biotechnology, cancer research, or computer science is really cutting-edge and important, and students and faculty are uniquely qualified to make a contribution toward finding solutions for the future.”
Linde adds that over the decades he has developed “deep appreciation” for the Institute. “I really credit MIT with preparing me for a career as clearly the most important factor that I ever experienced.”
Linde earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from MIT in 1962 and an MBA from Harvard in 1964. After a year at Tishman Realty and Construction in New York, building middle-income housing, he joined Boston’s Cabot, Cabot & Forbes in 1965. Five years later, he left the firm to found Boston Properties, which now owns more than 140 properties and more than 44 million square feet of space in four core markets: Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Among its properties are: Citigroup Center in New York, Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, the Russia Wharf office building now under construction on Boston’s Waterfront, and buildings in Reston Town Center in Reston, Virginia.
Ask Ed Linde what drives him to create buildings of this magnitude, and he says, “I’m a great believer in cities. People talk about smart growth. Cities allow people of talent to congregate with other people of talent –– and that produces steps forward that otherwise would not occur.
“There’s a powerful motivation for people to come together in urban environments to work, think, and act,” he says. “But we have to tackle transportation problems, energy problems, pollution problems. My vision for the future is an optimistic one,” he says, adding that although it will take time, he believes that solutions will emerge. “That’s why places like MIT are so important.”
Linde met Joyce, his wife of 46 years, at his MIT fraternity house when he was a sophomore. Now, they live outside Boston in a traditional suburban house onto which they just added a new living room, bedroom, and office. “After all this time, we corrected those things about the house that had annoyed us over the years,” he says, adding that they love the results.
The couple has two married children and five grandchildren. The family’s activities include skiing, horseback riding, and a love of art. (Joyce Linde is a trustee at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.) Ed experiments with digital photography and often photographs landscapes and people. He is also now chairman of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The most valuable lesson he has learned in life, he says, “is to take things one day at a time and to be patient.
“You can’t push anything whose time has not come,” he says. “But you sure can be ready to take advantage of opportunity, if you’re a little bit perceptive and patient.”
Linde follows his own advice. He knows that solving big problems can’t be pushed, but with patience and persistence, solutions eventually follow.
“My hope is that MIT will continue to do what it does best — to encourage innovation and intellectual stimulation,” he says. “MIT is not afraid to face world problems, which it never has been, and that’s great. I expect a lot from the Institute — and I think we’ll get it.”