Lawrence S. Bacow to Step Down from Tufts Presidency in 2011
Lawrence S. Bacow, who has advanced Tufts University’s leadership in teaching, research, and public service, while championing access to higher education, announced at the February 5–6 meeting of the university’s board of trustees that he would step down in June 2011.
Bacow took office as Tufts’ twelfth president on September 1, 2001. From the aftershocks of 9/11 to the economic challenges of the recent recession, he has consistently led the university according to the fundamental principle that he outlined in his seminal essay “A University Poised”—that all decisions should be based on what would help Tufts “to attract, recruit, and retain the very best students and the very best faculty.”
In announcing his decision in a message to the university community, Bacow noted, “I have often said that ten years is about the right term for a university president. It is long enough for one individual to have a substantial impact but not so long that the institution, or the president, becomes comfortable.”
James A. Stern, E72, A07P, chair of the board of trustees, said, “Larry Bacow has been unwavering in his commitment to educational excellence, and Tufts has truly prospered under his watch. Time and again, people have put their faith in his vision for Tufts’ future, and he has not let them down.”
During Bacow’s tenure, Tufts built on its historic strengths to enhance the undergraduate experience, deepen graduate and professional education and critical research, broaden international engagement, and foster active citizenship throughout the university. At the same time, the student body became measurably stronger and more diverse.
Tufts also made significant financial progress, raising more than $1 billion for its current $1.2 billion Beyond Boundaries campaign. The university’s endowment grew by nearly 86 percent from 2002 through December 2009, to $1.26 billion. Bacow established an office to manage university investments.
Bacow has been nationally recognized as an advocate for increasing access to higher education. As other institutions began expanding merit aid to gain an edge in competing for the most talented students, Tufts never wavered in its commitment to need-based financial aid for undergraduates. “It is far from clear to me how society is better off when scarce financial aid resources are diverted from the neediest students to those who are not needy by any measure, simply to redistribute high-scoring students among our institutions,” Bacow told the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education in 2006.
Since 2001, Tufts has increased financial aid for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students by almost 94 percent. In 2007, the university replaced loans with grants for undergraduates whose family income was below $40,000 a year. The following year, Tufts launched the first university-wide program in America to ease the debt of graduates pursuing careers in public service and the not-for-profit sector. The university has maintained its commitment to these programs despite the financial downturn. At the same time, Tufts saw the academic profile of students continue to rise, with combined SAT scores setting a record of 1420 in 2009.
The university has also strengthened its relationship with its principal teaching hospital, Tufts Medical Center. Under Bacow’s leadership and in collaboration with hospital CEO Ellen Zane, a strong partnership was formed that brought the hospital and Tufts School of Medicine closer together.
Bacow has been known for his transparency and accessibility. The annual President’s Marathon Challenge he established in 2003 brings members of the Tufts community together to run and volunteer at the Boston Marathon. He has completed five marathons, including four in Boston, where he has led the challenge team. The marathon challenge has raised $2.4 million through direct fundraising by Tufts runners, and has also garnered two $5 million gifts in support of nutrition and medical research and education. The annual race has also provided countless opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to talk informally with the president during early morning training runs. Bacow regularly serves as an adviser to first- and second-year students, and initiated Senior Dinners where all graduating seniors are invited to his home on campus. Graduating students’ chants of “Larry, Larry” have become a tradition at annual Commencement ceremonies.
“It has been a great privilege to lead Tufts for these past nine years, and I look forward to working with the board to ensure a smooth and successful transition to the next president,” Bacow said. “There will be plenty of time over the next sixteen months to reflect upon the past and say goodbyes. For now, I am focused on the future, on completing the Beyond Boundaries campaign, and on working with each of you in the months ahead to make Tufts an even better place.”
Stern, the trustee chair, said the search for Bacow’s successor will begin immediately, and the trustees will determine the best way to involve students and other constituencies in the process.
Other Milestones During the last decade, Tufts has made significant achievements in educating students and generating knowledge—the hallmarks of a great university.
Students. The quality and diversity of the student body continues to grow, fueled by increased financial aid and a holistic approach to admissions that enables Tufts to identify students whose personal strengths complement academic excellence in important ways. Over the last nine years, the average combined SAT scores of entering undergraduates have risen by more than 100 points, to 1420. At the same time, the number of students receiving Pell Grants, a benchmark for socioeconomic diversity, has risen from 432 in 1999 to 670 in 2009. Initiatives such as the Summer Scholars program have increased opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty across the university on substantive research. More than 42 percent of undergraduates now do independent research, compared with 27 percent a decade ago. Significant advances in graduate and professional education have included new degree programs in international law, international business, and conservation medicine, as well as initiatives to support expanded enrollment at the dental and medical schools.
Faculty. Support for faculty excellence has been a critical priority during Bacow’s presidency. Between 2000 and 2009, sponsored research awards grew by more than 80 percent, from $81 million to $147 million. Bacow reorganized the administration in the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering and appointed a new Council on Graduate Education to strengthen graduate programs university-wide. Initiatives in the life sciences have included the establishment of the New England Regional Biosafety Laboratory at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. With support from the president’s and provost’s offices, Tufts increased collaboration among the undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and generated enthusiasm for interdisciplinary teaching and research among the faculty. Under his leadership, Tufts also established a full year of pre-tenure leave for junior faculty in Arts and Sciences and research stipends for all tenured and tenure-track faculty in Arts and Sciences.
Diversity. Tufts established a university-wide Office of Institutional Diversity to oversee the work of a reinvigorated Office of Equal Opportunity, launch new programmatic initiatives, and establish strong ties between diversity programs across schools and divisions. The percentage of female and minority faculty has risen, with the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty of African descent doubling in the last seven years. During the Bacow administration, the diversity of the senior leadership team has also grown. Half of Tufts’ schools are led by women.
Facilities. Under Bacow’s leadership, existing facilities have been renovated and new ones constructed to support strategic priorities on all three of Tufts’ campuses. Major completed projects include: the eco-friendly dormitory Sophia Gordon Hall and the Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center on the Medford/Somerville campus; renovation and expansion of facilities at the Fletcher School; the addition of five floors to the School of Dental Medicine building and the renovation of the Sackler Center at the School of Medicine in Boston; and the Agnes Varis Campus Center and the Regional Biosafety Laboratory in Grafton.
Advancement. During Bacow’s presidency, the university has benefited from unprecedented donor generosity, receiving its five largest gifts, totaling $366 million, as it nears completion of a $1.2 billion capital campaign that has already raised $1.05 billion. More important, philanthropy has advanced core needs of the university—supporting great students and great faculty. Gifts totaling more than $369 million are supporting increased financial aid across all schools and enhancing the student experience, from new student centers on the Boston and Grafton campuses to new housing and academic facilities on the Medford/Somerville campus; $358 million in support from alumni, parents, and friends is strengthening Tufts’ ability to recruit and retain excellent faculty through new endowed professorships and increased research and program support.
Alumni Engagement. The university has expanded its regional programming for alumni and has engaged more Tufts graduates in the United States and abroad through its chapters and special interest groups. The Tufts alumni chapter program has grown fourfold since 2001, and now comprises sixty-eight chapters around the world. Alumni have formed more than twenty-one shared-interest groups in the last decade, up from three groups in 2001. More than 40,000 alumni now participate in the Tufts Online Community. The university has also enhanced its alumni publications, most notably Tufts Magazine, which has garnered numerous national awards for writing and graphic design.