Lawrence Seldon Bacow (/ˈbæˌk/; born August 24, 1951) is an American lawyer, economist, author, and the 29th President of Harvard University; he assumed office on July 1, 2018, succeeding Drew Gilpin Faust. Bacow was the Hauser leader-in-residence at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Center for Public Leadership, prior to the presidency. He was previously at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has been a member of the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing board, since 2011.

Lawrence Bacow
29th President of Harvard University
Assumed office
July 1, 2018
Preceded byDrew Gilpin Faust
12th President of Tufts University
In office
September 1, 2001 – July 29, 2011
Preceded byJohn A. DiBiaggio
Succeeded byAnthony Monaco
3rd Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In office
August 1, 1998 – June 30, 2001
PresidentCharles M. Vest
Preceded byPaul E. Gray
Succeeded byPhillip Clay
Personal details
Lawrence Seldon Bacow

(1951-08-24) August 24, 1951 (age 67)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Spouse(s)Adele Fleet Bacow
ResidenceBrookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (S.B.)
Harvard University (M.P.P., J.D., Ph.D.)
Academic work
DisciplinePublic Policy

Previous to his election to the Harvard presidency, he served as the 12th President of Tufts University from September 2001 to July 2011. He began his academic career as a professor of "environmental policy, negotiation, economics, and the intersection of law and public policy"[1] at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After 24 years of service, he concluded his time at MIT as department chair and the chancellor of the university.


Early life and educationEdit

Lawrence Seldon Bacow was born on August 24, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. His mother emigrated from Europe at age 19 after World War II. She was the only member of her family to survive Auschwitz. Bacow's father was brought to America as a child to escape pogroms.[2] Bacow grew up in Pontiac, Michigan and was a part of the Boy Scouts of America; he would eventually rise to be an Eagle Scout. The organization would give him the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award later in life.[3][4]

Bacow received his S.B. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a member of the Jewish social fraternity Zeta Beta Tau. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law School and his M.P.P. and Ph.D. from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.[5][6]

Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyEdit

Bacow began his academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as professor at the institution for 24 years, ultimately being appointed department chair and the chancellor. Bacow majored in economics as an undergraduate at MIT, then earned a law degree and a PhD in public policy at Harvard. Upon completion of graduate school in 1977, he returned to MIT to teach in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, becoming the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies. He was the co-founder and first Director of MIT's Center for Real Estate. As Chancellor of MIT (1998-2001), he had oversight of undergraduate and graduate education, student life, admissions, financial aid, athletics, campus planning, and MIT's large scale institutional partnerships both industrial and international.[7] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003.[8]

Tufts UniversityEdit

On September 1, 2001 he was elected as the 12th President of Tufts University.[9]

While President of Tufts, Bacow opposed the unionization efforts of graduate students as well as those of the university's technical and clerical employees.[10][11] On February 8, 2010 in an email to the student body he announced that he would be stepping down as President of Tufts in June 2011. On March 1, 2010, President Barack Obama announced that Bacow was appointed to the board of advisors for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.[12]

Harvard UniversityEdit

On May 25, 2011, Bacow was named as a member of the Harvard Corporation, the board tasked with guiding the endeavors and initiatives of Harvard University.[13] Thus, for approximately one month, until his resignation from Tufts, he had governance responsibilities at both Tufts University and Harvard University.

After Bacow was mentioned in the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2006 as a possible candidate to succeed Lawrence Summers as president of Harvard University, Bacow categorically denied interest in the position, saying, "I took this job [Tufts] expecting it to be my last. I still do."[14]

On February 11, 2018, it was announced that Bacow was set to become the 29th president of Harvard University on July 1, 2018, succeeding Drew Faust.[15][14][15] Chosen out of 700 candidates, his election was considered a "safe" succession to Faust.[9] President Lawrence Bacow has refused to divest from private prisons in the midst of a widespread student-led protest. [16]Currently, Harvard Corporation invests their 39 billion dollar endowment into private prison companies like Axon, GeoGroup and CoreCivic (immigration detention centers), and Tokio Marine (bail bond holder). “One thing you have to understand about me is that I don’t respond to demands, I respond to reason,” Bacow told six organizers from the pro-divestment organization after reiterating the University’s long-standing anti-divestment position.[17]

Personal lifeEdit

Bacow is an avid runner, with five marathons under his belt.[18][19] He and his wife, Adele Fleet Bacow, president of Community Partners Consultants, an urban planning firm, have two sons, Jay (b. 1980)[20] and Ken.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Svrluga, Susan (February 11, 2018). "Harvard names former Tufts leader Lawrence Bacow as president". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  2. ^ Hartocollis, Anemona (February 11, 2018). "Harvard Chooses Lawrence Bacow as Its Next President". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  3. ^ Townley, Alvin (December 26, 2006). Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 190. ISBN 0-312-36653-1. Retrieved December 29, 2006.
  4. ^ "Distinguished Eagle Scouts" (PDF). Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  5. ^ "Lawrence Bacow Named New Harvard University President". February 11, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Bacow, Lawrence Seldon (1978). Regulating occupational hazards through collective bargaining (Ph.D.). Harvard University. OCLC 8979942 – via ProQuest.
  7. ^ "Lawrence S. Bacow | MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Lawrence Bacow Named New Harvard University President". February 11, 2018. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  10. ^ "Bacow opposed to grad student unionization - The Tufts Daily". The Tufts Daily. April 1, 2002. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  11. ^ "Administration rebuffs efforts to unionize workers - The Tufts Daily". The Tufts Daily. April 15, 2009. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  12. ^ Communications, Office of Web. "Tufts E-News: Obama Taps Bacow for Higher Education Initiative". Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  13. ^ "Three to Join Harvard Corporation". Harvard Gazette. May 25, 2011.
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ a b "Harvard names Lawrence S. Bacow as 29th president". February 11, 2018. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  16. ^ The Harvard Crimson, Unsettling Truths About Harvard’s Investments in Prisons,
  17. ^ The Harvard Crimson, Bacow Tells Prison Divestment Group He Responds to ‘Reason,’ Not ‘Demands’,
  18. ^ After five straight years in the field, Bacow gives legs a respite from marathon - Sports Archived April 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Honest Mr Scoutmaster, it wasn't us...honest". Listserv. Retrieved January 28, 2007.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Adele Fleet Bacow: First Lady of Tufts". Tufts Magazine. Fall 2001.

External linksEdit

Academic offices
Title last held by
Paul E. Gray
Chancellor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1998 – 2001
Succeeded by
Phillip Clay
Preceded by
John A. DiBiaggio
President of Tufts University
2001 – 2011
Succeeded by
Anthony Monaco
Preceded by
Drew Gilpin Faust
President of Harvard University
2018 – present