CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday named Rafael Reif, an electrical engineer born in Venezuela who has been the university's provost since 2005, as its 17th president.

Reif, 61, replaces Susan Hockfield, the first female president of MIT, who announced in mid-February that she was stepping down after almost eight years leading one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

Reif will take up his post at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university on July 2.

In his role as provost, the senior academic official at the university, Reif helped create and implement a strategy that allowed MIT to weather the global financial crisis and drove the growth of the university overseas.

A native of Venezuela, Reif earned an undergraduate degree in engineering from that country's Universidad de Carabobo in 1973. He earned a masters and PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University in California. He joined MIT in 1980.

Reif is the first MIT president to not be a native English speaker.

(Reporting By Ros Krasny; Editing by Eric Beech)