Beyond the Burg: Tufts president to retire after ‘10 energetic years of growth’

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February 9, 2010

1:07 AM

Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow announced that he will step down in June 2011. During his 10-year tenure, Bacow has led efforts to make education available to students regardless of their ability to pay.

While he acknowledges that Tufts has yet to achieve that goal, the university’s endowment has increased nearly 86 percent since 2002. The current endowment is $1.26 billion.

“I have often said that 10 years is about the right term for a university president,” Bacow said in a statement.

“It is long enough for one individual to have a substantial impact, but not so long that the institution becomes comfortable.”

When Bacow became president, Tufts was seeing an increase in applications. However, the university, one of the most expensive in the nation, had difficulties enrolling admitted students. Additionally, the university lacked the financial resources to compete with other research universities in terms of attracting faculty and building cutting-edge facilities.

Bacow reached out to alumni, nearly doubling their contributions by 2009, and invested $20 million in faculty recruitment. The fundraising increased the volume of research by 60 percent and provided grants for students whose families make under $40,000 a year. Two freshmen classes were admitted on a need-blind basis.

“I think it’s fair to say that Tufts weathered the financial storm of 2008 and 2009 better than most,” Chair of the Board of Trustees James Stern said to the Tufts Daily. “A number of our competitor schools are still feeling the pinch.”

Bacow also changed the university’s admissions policies.

Bacow cut back the university’s early decision program, which generally draws middle and upper-class students. He increased financial aid for low-income students instead of increasing merit-based scholarships and introduced optional application questions measuring multiple forms of intelligence such as creativity.
The policy change resulted in a 100-point increase in the average SAT scores of freshmen classes.

“Larry proved that an institution can stick to the principle of need-based financial aid and still dramatically raise the quality of its student body,” Charles Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering, said.

Bacow was a chancellor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when Vest was MIT’s president.

Additionally, Tufts launched a university-wide loan-forgiveness program for Tufts graduates pursuing careers in public service or non profit sectors.

“Tufts got sluggish, and he reinvigorated it and gave us 10 energetic years of academic growth and fundraising,” Sol Gittleman, a former Tufts provost, said to The Boston Globe.

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