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Bacow, named Harvard president, meets the press

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 05:33 PM PST

There came a moment last fall when Bill Lee just had to ask.

Lee, the Harvard Corporation's senior fellow, chaired the search committee tasked with finding a successor for Harvard President Drew Faust, who will step down in June after 11 years at the University's helm.

The committee presided over a process that was broadly consultative, sending out 375,000 emails seeking comments and suggestions, and speaking with hundreds of alumni, students, and higher-education leaders. Advisory committees were convened representing each of the campus' main stakeholders: faculty, students, and staff.

The process worked, generating the names of 700 potential candidates. One name kept resurfacing: Lawrence S. Bacow, who spent a successful decade as Tufts University's president, who had once been described as "perhaps the most respected university president in the country," and whom Lee didn't have to go far to interview: Bacow had been working diligently as a search committee member.

"We had heard from a number of folks during the interviews, suggesting that we consider Larry," Lee said. "And then several members of the faculty contacted me directly and suggested, 'What about Larry?' I was in a car on the way home from the airport, and I thought to myself it would be irresponsible not to ask him" if he might be interested in the job.


Harvard names Lawrence S. Bacow as 29th president

Widely admired higher education leader, who previously served as Tufts president and MIT chancellor, to become next president in July

Lee called Bacow and asked whether he'd consider joining the pool of candidates.  Bacow discussed the prospect with his wife during a two-day car trip. When they returned, Bacow agreed to participate, and in December stepped down from the search committee. Bacow said Sunday that the challenging times facing Harvard and all of higher education played a role in his decision.

"I really see this as an opportunity to not just serve Harvard, but at this particular moment in time, to serve higher education," Bacow said. "These are tough times, and it's the first time in my lifetime when people have questioned the value of going to college, have questioned whether it's a worthy investment for students and their families, questioned whether or not colleges and universities are worthy of our support."

That skepticism, found even at the highest levels of government, caused higher education's tax-exempt status to come under assault in recent months. In December, Congress passed and President Trump signed the first tax on university endowments, which provide critical support for campus budgets.

Bacow spoke after being introduced as Harvard's 29th president on Sunday afternoon during a news conference at Harvard's Barker Center. Bacow, who was Tufts president from 2001 to 2011 and previously chancellor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was appointed Sunday by a vote of the Harvard Corporation, in consultation with the Board of Overseers. His presidency begins July 1.

In his introductory comments, Lee called Bacow "one of the most respected, insightful, experienced, and effective leaders" in higher education, one who other leaders come to for advice on hard problems. He is someone who the search committee "unanimously and enthusiastically believes was the best choice to lead Harvard forward."

"Larry is an extraordinarily accomplished, admired, and forward-looking university leader, a respected scholar and a respected educator and a truly wonderful human being," Lee said. "Harvard's future will be in excellent hands."

Lee thanked members of the search committee and others who participated in the process and also thanked Faust for her "extraordinary service and her extraordinary leadership."

Bacow, a lawyer, economist, and environmental policy expert who served on MIT's faculty for 24 years, not only knows higher education, but knows Harvard as well, Lee said. Bacow holds three Harvard degrees — a J.D. and an M.P.P., both earned in 1976, and a Ph.D. in public policy in 1978. He has served on the Corporation since 2011 and has been president-in-residence at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. He's currently the Hauser Leader-in-Residence at Harvard Kennedy School's Center for Public Leadership.

Bacow traced his appreciation of higher education to his family's difficult history. His father immigrated to the United States to escape pogroms in Minsk in the Soviet Union. His mother arrived aboard a Liberty ship with few belongings shortly after World War II. She was the only member of her family to survive the Auschwitz extermination camp and the only Jew from her village to survive the war.

"When she arrived on our shores, she was all of 19," Bacow said. "When I reflect upon my parents' journey to this country, I realize how lucky I am. Where else can one go in one generation from off the boat with literally nothing to enjoying the kind of life and opportunity that I and my family have been fortunate to enjoy? It was higher education that made this all possible."

Bacow will take the helm of an institution that is financially robust, nearing the end of a capital campaign that has raised more than $8 billion, topping its original $6.5 billion goal. Bacow declined to discuss specific priorities for his presidency, but said new opportunities exist in a variety of areas, offering as an example the expansion of Harvard's campus in Allston.

Bacow said that when he arrived at the Kennedy School in 1972 as a 20-year-old graduate student, he thought that he might have been the beneficiary of an admissions mistake. It was during his time here, he said, that he discovered a love of teaching and of scholarship and developed the interest in higher education that put his feet on the path they still tread today.

"It was here that I discovered who I really was," Bacow said. "I know of no place on earth with greater potential to help change people's lives for the better, and I can think of no more exciting time [for] doing all I can — indeed I would say all we can — to help Harvard achieve that potential, not just for the good of our students but for the good of the world we aim to serve."

Adele Fleet Bacow and Lawrence Bacow arrive at the press conference. Neil Rudenstine (from left), Drew Faust, and Lawrence Bacow – Harvard presidents past, present, and future – pose for a photograph following the press conference.

Kris Snibbe and Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Harvard names Lawrence S. Bacow as 29th president

Posted: 11 Feb 2018 12:02 PM PST

Lawrence S. Bacow, one of the most experienced and respected leaders in American higher education, will become the 29th president of Harvard University on July 1.

Currently the Hauser Leader-in-Residence at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Center for Public Leadership, Bacow served with distinction for 10 years as President of Tufts University, where he was known for his dedication to expanding student opportunity, fostering innovation in education and research, enhancing collaboration across schools and disciplines, and spurring consideration of how universities can best serve society.

Bacow's decade of leadership at Tufts followed 24 years on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he served as chancellor, chair of the faculty, and the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies.

A native of Pontiac, Mich., and the son of immigrants, he attended college at MIT and went on to earn three degrees from Harvard, including a Ph.D. in public policy.  With scholarly interests that range across environmental policy, bargaining and negotiation, economics, law, and public policy, he is a recognized expert on the resolution of environmental disputes, and more recently has turned his academic focus to issues facing higher education.

"Larry Bacow is one of the most accomplished, admired, insightful, and effective leaders in American higher education," said William F. Lee, A.B. '72, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation and chair of Harvard's presidential search committee. "This is a pivotal moment for higher education — one full of extraordinary possibilities to pursue new knowledge, enhance education, and serve society, but also a time when the singular value of higher education and university research has too often been challenged and called into doubt.  Such a time calls for skillful leadership, strategic thinking, and disciplined execution. Larry will provide just that.

"He will bring to the task not only wide experience, deep expertise, and an intimate familiarity with Harvard's opportunities and challenges, but also a passionate commitment to helping universities, and everyone within them, serve the larger world," continued Lee. "He is ideally positioned to hit the ground running and keep Harvard moving ambitiously forward."

Director and editor: Ned Brown; cinematographer: Kai-Jae Wang/Harvard Staff

Speaking after his election, Bacow said, "I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to lead this remarkable institution — and to succeed Drew Faust, whom I have been privileged to count as a friend and an inspiration since we met over a decade ago.

"The Harvard I have known has always stood for at least three things: the pursuit of truth, an unwavering commitment to excellence, and opportunity," Bacow added. "In a nation divided, these guiding ideals have never been more important. We should never shy away from nor be apologetic about affirming our commitment to making the world a better place through our teaching and scholarship and our commitment to truth, excellence, and opportunity for all. And we should always recognize that, for all of our progress toward realizing these ideals over decades and centuries, there is much more we can learn, more we can contribute, more we can do better.

"We are blessed with extraordinary students, faculty, and staff," he said. "Whenever I see tourists taking pictures in Harvard Yard, I want to stop them and say, 'No! Harvard is not its buildings. It is its people, and they are inspiring, from faculty pushing the boundaries of knowledge in virtually every field imaginable, to students who excel in every possible dimension, to our staff who are dedicated to enabling everything we do.'

"Those of us privileged to lead this University are invested with a precious trust," Bacow said. "I promise to do everything within my power to prove worthy of it."

In accordance with Harvard's charter, Bacow was elected to the Harvard presidency today (Feb. 11) by the Harvard Corporation with the consent of the University's Board of Overseers.

The appointment concludes a search launched last summer following Drew Faust's announcement that she would step down after 11 years as Harvard's president.  The search involved far-reaching consultation with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and others having valuable perspectives on Harvard and higher education.

"From the very first day of my presidency, when he invited me to his house for dinner, Larry Bacow has been a source of wisdom, experience, and insight, as a friend, as a fellow president, and in recent years as a member of the Harvard Corporation," said Faust. "He understands the power of higher education to expand knowledge, strengthen society, and improve human lives.  But he will also bring a clear-eyed perspective to the challenges higher education faces at this moment, and a deep devotion to addressing them in the effort to broaden opportunity for all. I could not be happier contemplating Harvard in his hands, and I look forward to his many successes as president."

Bacow served as the 12th president of Tufts from September 2001 through July 2011. Throughout his tenure, he worked vigorously to advance excellence and catalyze innovation in teaching, research, and public service.  A prominent advocate of student access and opportunity, he presided over a doubling of the university's annual budget for financial aid, the replacement of loans with grants for undergraduates from low-income families, and the introduction of a loan repayment assistance program helping graduates from across Tufts pursue careers in public service and the nonprofit domain.

Bacow's time at Tufts was marked by efforts to strengthen the undergraduate experience, to expand the institution's international reach, to invest in research and graduate education, and to create interdisciplinary connections within and across Tufts' eight schools, with an emphasis on addressing societal challenges. He embraced diversity and inclusion as foundations of excellence, launching the university's Office of Institutional Diversity and working to increase the presence of women and minorities on the faculty and in positions of leadership.

Reflecting his focus on how universities can benefit society, Bacow convened an international conference of higher education leaders in 2005 to initiate the Talloires Network, a global association of universities committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. The network has grown to more than 360 member institutions in 77 countries and maintains its secretariat at Tufts.

Bacow was widely known at Tufts for his open, engaged, and accessible leadership style, as well as for strengthening the university's ties with its alumni and its host communities. An avid runner, he founded the President's Marathon Challenge in 2003, which brought together Tufts community members to run and volunteer in the Boston Marathon and to raise funds to support nutrition and medical research. His early-morning training runs with students, faculty, and staff became a hallmark, as did the dinners he hosted for members of the senior class.

While at Tufts, Bacow also took on broader higher education leadership roles as chair of the Association of Governing Boards' council of presidents, chair of the executive committee of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, and a member of the executive committee of the American Council of Education's board of directors.

"Larry Bacow set Tufts on a trajectory to a different level, and his record at the university speaks for itself," said James A. Stern, M.B.A. '74, chair of the Tufts University board of trustees during Bacow's presidency. "Larry is an extraordinary leader who, in the pursuit of excellence, thinks about where things need to be, not simply where they are now. He is the ultimate team player, someone who makes everyone around him better. He was deeply respected, even loved, by all the constituencies at Tufts – students, faculty, staff, and alumni."


Bacow, named Harvard president, meets the press

Explains who he is, how he's learned, what he values

Following his decade at Tufts, Bacow came to Harvard in 2011 as president-in-residence at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), while also becoming a member of the Harvard Corporation, the University's principal governing board. In 2014, he moved from the GSE to the Harvard Kennedy School, where he remains the Hauser Leader-in-Residence in the Center for Public Leadership. He has devoted his time to advising new and aspiring college and university leaders, mentoring students interested in careers in education, teaching in executive education programs, and writing and speaking about major issues in higher education.

"Larry Bacow brings an extraordinary combination of broad experience in academia, deep knowledge of Harvard, and that intangible quality, wisdom," said Shirley Tilghman, who served as president of Princeton University from 2001 to 2013, remains a professor of molecular biology at Princeton, and serves on the Harvard Corporation. "I have been struck during the years I have served with him on the Corporation by his generosity to many leaders, both inside and outside Harvard, who regularly turn to him for thoughtful counsel."

Bacow is a senior advisor to Ithaka S+R, a leading research organization that helps academic communities serve the public good and navigate change. In addition, he has served as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Lincoln Project on preserving and strengthening the nation's public research universities (2014-16), as well as an advisory board member for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (2010-15).

"Since meeting and befriending Larry Bacow over 25 years ago at MIT, I have had the privilege of working with one of the most effective leaders in all aspects of the living and learning environment of university life," said John Silvanus Wilson Jr., M.T.S. '81, Ed.M. '82, Ed.D. '85, former president of Morehouse College, a Harvard Overseer, and past executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).  "I encouraged President Obama's interest in appointing Larry to the advisory board of the White House Initiative on HBCUs because of the transformational impact he had at Tufts, including boosting financial aid, expanding research, enriching student life, and advancing diversity and inclusion.

"Larry combines wisdom with a human touch, acumen with compassion," Wilson added.  "Harvard is fortunate to have him as its leader for the road ahead."

As a member of the Harvard Corporation since 2011, Bacow has been increasingly involved in a range of strategic issues facing the University, from planning for future developments in Allston to bolstering support for research, from enhancing collaboration across Schools to envisioning the future of online learning. He withdrew from the presidential search committee in mid-December, after numerous people consulted about the search urged that he be considered as a candidate.

"A trusted and proven leader, known for his listening and communication skills, Larry Bacow has the intelligence, integrity, demeanor, and management expertise to guide Harvard in the years to come," said Scott A. Abell, A.B. '72, president of Harvard's Board of Overseers and a member of the presidential search committee. "He knows Harvard, knows and respects our faculty, is trusted by our staff, and thoroughly enjoys his interactions with our students. His sense of humor and warm personality are admirable and genuine.

"Larry Bacow is the right person, for all the right reasons, to become the 29th president of Harvard," said Abell.

Bacow spent the first phase of his academic career at MIT, where he joined the faculty in 1977.  Emerging as a leading member of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, with expertise in economics, law, and public policy, he rose to become the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies. He played key roles in founding and guiding both the MIT Consortium on Global Environmental Challenges and the MIT Center for Real Estate. Early in his career, he held visiting professorships at universities in Israel, Italy, Chile, and the Netherlands.

His first university-wide leadership role came as chair of the MIT Faculty (1995-97).  In 1998, he was appointed MIT's chancellor, one of the institute's most senior academic officers, a role in which he guided efforts in undergraduate education, graduate education, research initiatives, international and industrial partnerships, and strategic planning.

"It was clear from the moment Larry Bacow became chair of the Faculty at MIT that he is someone with a deep commitment to academic excellence, for whom students matter a great deal, and with a very broad perspective across disciplines," said Robert J. Birgeneau, an eminent physicist who served alongside Bacow at MIT before becoming president of the University of Toronto and then chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. "Successful university leaders are clear about what their values are, and those values are reflected in how they lead their institutions. Larry has a very well-defined moral compass, which will serve him and Harvard well in the years to come."

The son of immigrant parents — his father a refugee from the pogroms of Eastern Europe, his mother a survivor of Auschwitz — Bacow has long been devoted to education's vital role in enabling pursuit of the American dream. Growing up in Michigan, he took an avid interest in science and mathematics, and won acceptance to MIT. He received his S.B. in economics there in 1972, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to earn three degrees from Harvard, a J.D. and M.P.P in 1976, and a Ph.D. in public policy in 1978.

Bacow is the author or co-author of four books and numerous articles on topics related to environmental policy, economics, law, land use, and occupational health and safety. More recently, his writings and lectures have focused on a wide array of issues in higher education, including online learning, innovations in teaching, the political economy of universities, and higher education leadership and governance. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was named Clark Kerr Lecturer by the University of California, Berkeley, last year, and he has been awarded six honorary degrees.

Bacow is married to Adele Fleet Bacow, an urban planner and graduate of Wellesley College and MIT.  He met Adele on his first day of orientation as a 1L at Harvard Law School.  She was awarded the Hosea Ballou Medal by the Tufts board of trustees in 2012. The medal, awarded only 17 times since its inception in 1939, was created to "recognize members of the Tufts community who have rendered exceptional service for the institution."  The Bacows have two sons.

In a community-wide message announcing Bacow's appointment, Lee expressed the search committee's gratitude to all who offered thoughts on the search.

"With my colleagues on the search committee, I thank all of you who offered your thoughtful advice," he said.  "Our gratitude goes especially to the members of the three advisory committees — of faculty, students, and staff — who worked so hard and contributed so much to informing the search committee's deliberations, both by sharing their own views and by eliciting robust input from many others."

Said Robin Kelsey, A.M. '87, Ph.D. '00, chair of the faculty advisory committee, who serves as the Shirley Carter Burden Professor of Photography and Dean of the Arts and Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences: "During the course of our conversations on the faculty advisory committee, it became clear that the extraordinary challenges and opportunities that Harvard faces today call for a president with vision, experience, organizational savvy, and consensus-building skills. Larry Bacow has these leadership qualities in abundance. The search committee could not have been more solicitous and respectful of the views of the faculty advisory committee. It was a wonderful process, and I look forward to great years ahead under the leadership of Larry Bacow."

The student advisory committee reached out to students across the University throughout the fall semester to seek input on overarching challenges and opportunities facing Harvard, as well as the qualities they would value in its next president. "From the beginning, I found the search committee to be sincerely invested in student perspectives and feedback, and we met with members of the committee multiple times over the past few months to share observations and recommendations," said Jyoti Jasrasaria, A.B. '12, a third-year Harvard Law School student who chaired the student advisory committee. "We engaged almost 4,000 students through our various outreach efforts, and we're grateful that we were able to bring those students' voices to the committee and ensure that they were heard throughout the presidential selection process."

"The presidential search committee's recognition of the importance of staff input into the search process was deeply appreciated by the community," said Katie Lapp, executive vice president, who chaired the staff advisory committee. "The robust attendance of staff at sessions across campus demonstrated the deep commitment they have to the University and to the success of our next president.

"Throughout his career," she added, "Larry Bacow has demonstrated an ability to build and inspire teams, and to engage openly and authentically with staff members, and I know the staff community will work tirelessly to support his efforts on behalf of the University."

Founded in 1636, Harvard is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to educating leaders and pursuing scholarship in many disciplines to make a positive difference in communities around the world. The University, which is based in Cambridge and Boston, Mass., has an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree candidates, including undergraduate and graduate students. Harvard has more than 360,000 alumni around the world. The president serves as the chief academic and administrative officer of the University.

Lee closed his message to the Harvard community by thanking Faust and welcoming Bacow.

"I want again to salute Drew Faust for her outstanding leadership and service, which will leave her successor with so strong a platform to build on. With her, we will do our best to make her final spring in Mass Hall both memorable and productive," said Lee. "For today, please join me in congratulating and welcoming Larry Bacow as Harvard's next president. He is someone who leads by giving credit rather than taking it. And he knows that what Harvard can accomplish for its students and for the world in the years ahead will depend foremost on all of you."

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now