Harvard University names Lawrence Bacow as new president

Monday, 12 Feb, 2018

Bacow, a longtime leader in American higher education, will be Harvard University's 29th president, according to an announcement Sunday.

Bacow was the former president of Tufts University and chancellor of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bacow, 66, was a board member under the university's first female president Drew Gilpin Faust, who announced last summer she would step down after 11 years.

William Lee, chairman of the presidential search committee, said Bacow was picked "when the singular value of higher education and university research has too often been challenged and called into doubt" and that Bacow will provide "skillful leadership, strategic thinking, and disciplined execution" needed in such times.

"From the summer through late past year, as we reached out widely to solicit advice and nominations, increasingly many people within Harvard and beyond-faculty, students, staff, alumni, institutional leaders here and elsewhere-encouraged us to consider Larry for the presidency", William F. Lee '72, the senior fellow of the Corporation and the chair of the search committee, wrote in a press release Sunday.

The presidential search committee consulted faculty, students, staff, and alumni before ultimately selecting Bacow from almost 700 candidates.

This was not the first time Bacow was considered for Harvard's presidency. It was here that I discovered that I wanted to devote my life to scholarship.

"I was in full listening mode", Bacow said of that meeting as he exited Loeb House in October 2017.

Harvard posted the following video in which Bacow talks about his parents, noting that they were both refugees and that his mother, a survivor of Auschwitz, was the only member of her family or her town who survived the Holocaust and World War II.

A native of Pontiac, Michigan, Bacow attended MIT and received three degrees from Harvard, including a law degree and doctorate in public policy.

He also is a recognized expert on the resolution of environmental disputes, and more recently has turned his academic focus to issues facing higher education.

"As things progressed, one of our own search committee members was repeatedly suggested by people inside and outside Harvard", Lee said about Bacow. Of his opportunities, he says that "higher education was at the root of that".

Bacow will assume Harvard's top post at a precarious time for higher education and the University.

The presidential search committee, composed of the 12 members of the Harvard Corporation and three members of the Board of Overseers, has been working to fill the position and narrow its search from the initial set of 700 candidates since last June. He said the committee consulted with a range of individuals - including faculty, students, staff and alumni - before making a final decision.