Former Middlebury President Ron Liebowitz to lead Brandeis University
WALTHAM, Mass. — Ronald D. Liebowitz, who stepped down as the 16th president of Middlebury College this past June, has taken a similar job at a Boston-area educational institution.
Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees on Thursday announced that Liebowitz has been named the ninth president of the Waltham, Mass., school.
Liebowitz will begin his leadership role at Brandeis on July 1, 2016.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ron Liebowitz to our community,” said Perry M. Traquina, chair of Brandeis’ Board of Trustees. “He is a proven visionary and leader who helped a great institution scale even greater heights and deftly managed it through challenging times. Brandeis will benefit so much from his exceptional experience and passion.”
“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to lead Brandeis,” said Liebowitz. “The university’s founding, based on the premise of offering an education to those who had been excluded from the finest universities, is inspiring. Its commitment to social justice, as espoused by its namesake, represents a precious compass for an institution of higher education in the 21st century.
“And its Jewish heritage and roots reflect a learning environment committed not only to critical thinking but to self-criticism as well. I am excited to work with Brandeis faculty, staff and students to advance Brandeis so it can be a model for teaching, learning and research that befits its history and our times.”
Liebowitz, 58, enjoyed a 31-year career at Middlebury — 20 years on the faculty as a professor of geography, including seven years as provost, and 11 years as president, from 2004 until June 2015.
Under his leadership, Middlebury made enormous academic, programmatic, reputational and financial gains, including the successful completion of a $500 million capital campaign, which surpassed its goal.
Liebowitz oversaw critical strategic investments in Middlebury’s academic enterprise. During his presidency, the college added 120 endowed student scholarships and 16 endowed faculty positions, and enriched its liberal-arts curriculum by spearheading a number of rigorous project-based initiatives for undergraduates.
“Ron was a transformational leader for Middlebury College,” said Marna Whittington, Middlebury’s board chair. “A less evident yet profoundly important accomplishment was his guiding of the institution through a review of the Board of Trustees’ governance structures, followed by a smooth implementation of their reform. The new governance structures, which focus on greater education of trustees; increased transparency of board processes and objectives; and more-effective inclusion of faculty, students and staff in governance and decision making, have placed Middlebury on a path to success for the next century.”
During Liebowitz’s tenure, Middlebury expanded its roster of immersive language schools, including launching, seven years ago, what has become its renowned School of Hebrew. During this time, the college also acquired the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school with a distinguished history; added 23 Schools Abroad sites; and opened a Center for Social Entrepreneurship as well as an intensive summer School of the Environment.
In 2009, Time magazine named Liebowitz one of the 10 best U.S. college presidents. His successor at Middlebury College is Laurie Patton, who took the reigns at the college this past July 1.
At Brandeis, Liebowitz will succeed Lisa M. Lynch, the a professor of Social and Economic Policy, who has served as Brandeis’ interim president since July. At the end of June 2016, she will return to her previous role, serving as provost and chief academic officer at the university.
“I am extremely pleased that Ron has been selected to lead Brandeis,” said Lynch. “He has deep experience in recruiting and supporting exceptional faculty, which is so fundamental to the distinctive educational experience we offer our undergraduate and graduate students, and to our extraordinary scholarly and artistic contributions.”
“On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I want to thank Lisa for her skillful leadership during this time of transition,” Traquina said. “Her wisdom and wholehearted dedication to serving Brandeis will continue to be invaluable when she returns to the provost’s seat. Our leadership team will be unusually seasoned and accomplished. We are extremely fortunate to have her as our provost.”
The naming of Liebowitz as president concludes a search that began in spring 2015, with the support of executive-search consulting firm Spencer Stuart. A search committee representing trustees, faculty, alumni and students led the effort to gather input and identify the strongest possible candidates.
“From the very beginning of the search, it was clear that Ron met every one of the committee’s criteria,” said Larry Kanarek ’76, the Brandeis trustee who chaired the search committee. “He has exceptional, transferable leadership experience and a proven record of advancing academic excellence. He is financially savvy and a superb fundraiser. And he is a straight shooter who is comfortable in his own skin and eager to engage all parts of our community.”
Liebowitz is a political geographer who specializes in Russian economic and political geography. A native of New York City, he earned a BA in economics and geography from Bucknell University and a PhD in geography from Columbia University.
He is on sabbatical this year, working on a research project with his wife, Jessica. Their research focuses on the future of doctoral education, assessing both its far-reaching impact on education at all levels and its illumination of the deepest challenges facing higher education today. At Brandeis, Jessica Liebowitz will focus on engaging, highlighting and sharing the dynamic intellectual and creative life of the campus, just as she did at Middlebury during her husband’s presidency.
Ron, Jessica and their three children will remain in their home in Newton, Mass.