To my esteemed colleagues the Faculty-Electorate of the Politecnico di Torino,
Writing letters of support for good colleagues is an act that we have all performed; it is part of our academic culture, and it may sometimes appear as a ritual that has lost some of its substance. Nothing is further from the tone and meaning I hope to convey to you through this letter: I wish to express my deep respect and admiration for Professor De Martin.
I have known Professor De Martin for nearly fifteen years, and during that time, I have come to understand the depth of this intellectual persona as well as his extraordinary talent to transform ideas and plans into concrete realizations. Not only is he a first-rate technical and scientific specialist, but he is also one of these great scientific teachers who understand the role and importance of science in our societies. Of course, he teaches the skills young people need to be effective and respected actors in their working fields, but, he goes further: beyond the mastery of knowledge, he adds a concern for wisdom; he worries about the understanding one has to own to make choices that place science and technology at the service of society, and not the reverse. His publications, all extremely well received, also reflect this humanistic dimensions without conceding anything regarding the quest of excellence: that trait also defines his general attitude to research.
The creation of the Nexa Center for Internet and Society can be interpreted as an expression of his broad outlook on science and technology. As an institution, it has attracted the attention of many prestigious universities and many leading scholars. The results for the Politecnico have been exceedingly positive. It has allowed the Politecnico to take its rightful place as a major node in an international network of important institutions around the world. And this result simply reflects another of Professor De Martin’s great qualities: the ability to weave ties with important people, great institutions, profound ideas and essential projects.
For the role of rector, these qualities are fundamental. As is his talent to take on the leadership of a team in such a way that he appears simply nudging it while, in actuality, he is inspiring the group to work at a higher pitch. Beneath the steps that seem to take place so easily, there lies much work, much listening, much consulting, much thinking and, even more fundamentally, a formidable intelligence. This man sees further than most of us, and his presence makes living a learning experience. Thoughtfulness, solid thinking, great store of knowledge all work together not only to construct a strong team, but also to make it work ever so judiciously: a team led by Professor De Martin is also a team that proceeds through an intense exercise in critical self-examination.
The scale of organization needed to manage as important an institution as the Politecnico is obviously large. Professor De Martin is no stranger to such scales. He has directed large events, and this experience will be very useful at the head of the Politecnico. One of the outstanding qualities of Professor De Martin is that he can make rigour and systematicity work with out-of-the-box thinking, with innovation, with creativity. Creative discipline would be an incomplete but nonetheless appropriate way to describe the duality of his thinking structures.
One last point needs to be added: if Professor De Martin is seeking the rectorship of the Politecnico, it is because he is deeply concerned with the institution; it is because he wants to serve the institution where he has evolved much of his career. Here, the career objective that could be hypothesized with lesser individuals is beside the point: Professor De Martin does not need to be rector to convince dozens and even hundreds of us that he is outstanding. He hopes to be rector to be in a position to help an institution in which he deeply believes and to which he is fully committed.
His experience with various settings, industrial, governmental and academic, places him in a position to navigate some of the treacherous shoals that administrators of great institutions muct expect and face. He has the skills, the steadiness and the foresight to lead a great school and make it even more distinguished than it is today.
With respectful regards,
Professeur honoraire, Université de Montréal
Professeur honoraire, Université de Montréal