“I have always believed, and still do, that the need for MITRE-like work is very large.” – 1969
Robert R. Everett, born June 26, 1921 in Yonkers, New York, was the first MITRE employee to rise to the position of President from within the organization. His career, both at MITRE and MIT Lincoln Lab, is marked by an impressive chain of accomplishments.
Everett received his Bachelor of Science degree from Duke University in 1942 and his Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1943.
In 1942, Everett joined MIT’s Servomechanisms Laboratory and worked for Jay W. Forrester developing hydraulic servomechanisms for stabilized ship board radar antennas. Everett was the designer, and later the engineer, in charge of logic design and development for the Whirlwind digital computer, which was begun at the Servomechanisms Laboratory in 1946. When Project Whirlwind was transferred to MIT’s Digital Computer Laboratory in 1951, Mr. Everett was appointed associate director of this lab.
In the same year, a large part of the Digital Computer Laboratory joined the newly formed MIT Lincoln Laboratory as Division VI. Everett became associate head of Division VI and a member of the Lincoln Steering Committee, continuing as associate director of the Digital Computer Laboratory. In 1956, he became head of Division VI of Lincoln Laboratory, where he was in charge of the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense system design and test project. He also directed Lincoln’s data processing research and development.
In October 1958, Everett joined the newly organized MITRE Corporation as the company’s first Technical Director. A year later he assumed the role of the first Vice President of technical operations. Named the first Executive Vice President in 1969, he became President of MITRE the same year, when John McLucas left MITRE to become Undersecretary of the Air Force.
Throughout the early years of the company, Everett provided a steady influence that guided the organization through difficulties while ensuring sound technical performance. He was the architect of many of MITRE’s operating policies, leading MITRE as it significantly expanded its technical program and expertise. Though the Air Force continued to be MITRE’s primary sponsor, the corporation began to work for other government agencies as well, including the Department of Defense (DoD).
Under Everett’s leadership, MITRE’s original task of helping the Air Force implement the nation’s first semi-automatic air defense system evolved into work on overseas command, control, and communications systems, a national air traffic control system, the nation’s ground transportation system, and advanced information systems for various education, health, and other social agencies.
Throughout his career, Everett served on numerous boards and committees. He was a consultant to the Air Defense Panel, President’s Science Advisory Committee (1959-1960) and the Air Force Systems Command Range Technical Advisory Group (1962-1968).
From 1968 to 1969, he served as a member of the Department of Transportation’s Air Traffic Control Advisory Committee, the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering Systems Engineering Management Panel, and the Defense Science Board Task Force on Research and Development Management.
From 1970 to 1972, Everett served as a member of the Advisory Council of the Panel on Major Systems Acquisition of the Commission on Government Procurement. He also served as a member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Tracking and Data Acquisition Advisory Panel from 1971 to 1972. He was a member of the Defense Science Board (DSB) from 1987 to 1993, and was its chairman from 1988 through 1989.
A senior scientist of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, Everett was also a member of the following: The Defense Communications Agency’s Scientific Advisory Group, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Advisory Board, the Strategic Defense Initiative Advisory Committee, and the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems of the National Research Council.
Everett’s professional activities also included membership on the U.S. Information Advisory Committee, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Command and Control Study Group, and the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff Scientific Advisory Group.
Everett was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi and Tau Beta Pi, as well as a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He also belonged to the National Academy of Engineering, the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Everett’s accomplishments have been recognized by numerous organizations and institutions. In 1978, he received the Duke University Distinguished Alumnus Award. In September 1983, he was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, its highest recognition of a civilian in peacetime. In June 1985, he received the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Gold Medal Award for Engineering.
In October 1989, President George H.W. Bush presented Everett with the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor in this area, for his work in real-time computer technologies and applications.
In May 1990, Everett received the Pioneer Award from the IEEE, Aerospace Electronics Systems Society, for his work on the development of the Whirlwind Computer. In September 1990, he received the Air Traffic Control Association’s George W. Kriske Memorial Award for his contributions to air traffic control.
Everett and MITRE were among the sixteen recipients honored with the Air Force Pioneer Award, which recognized and honored outstanding individuals and organizations that have made sustainable contributions to the Air Force, Hanscom Air Force Base and the Electronic Systems Center.
His work has been published in numerous technical journals, and he has been awarded several patents in the fields of magnetic drum memories and display devices.
Everett retired in 1986 but continued to serve as a member of the MITRE Board of Trustees until his death in 2018.