Students, faculty, and administrators at the Law School say they are pleased Harvard’s 29th president will be one of their own.
University President-elect Lawrence S. Bacow, who will take office after President Drew G. Faust steps down in June, graduated from the Law School with a J.D. in 1976. He also holds two degrees from the Kennedy School.
Law School affiliates are eager to embrace a president with long-standing ties to the school. Bacow, an environmental policy expert, spent a number of his formative years at the school and met his wife, Adele F. Bacow, on the Law School campus during the first day of orientation.
Bacow, who served as the chancellor of MIT and the president of Tufts University, returned to his former stomping grounds decades after graduating, taking a seat on the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, in 2011. He also worked on the Program on Negotiation at the Law School.
John F. Manning ’82, dean of the Law School, wrote in an emailed statement that he is “delighted” with Bacow’s appointment and “look[s] forward to working with him.”
“I am delighted that our alumnus Lawrence S. Bacow will lead Harvard University. When I became dean, one of the most frequent pieces of advice I got from fellow deans was, ‘You need to meet Larry Bacow; he has terrific insights about how to lead a school.’ They were right,” Manning wrote.
Manning’s predecessor as dean, Martha L. Minow, wrote in an email that she thinks Bacow’s legal training has equipped him well to lead universities like Tufts, and now, Harvard.
“Larry Bacow is not only a proven, effective leader in higher education who passionately cares about access, inclusion, and excellence; he is also genuinely perceptive and wise,” she wrote. “Because he continually integrates rigorous analysis with generous human concerns (helped by his legal and economics training!), his leadership bodes so well not only for Harvard but for all affected by higher education.”
Not many current HLS scholars taught Bacow in the ’70s, but Laurence H. Tribe ’62, a Law School professor, said he wishes he had known Bacow as a student.
“Larry Bacow wasn’t my student, but I wish he had been,” Tribe wrote in an email. “He’s a wonderful choice as Harvard’s next President and I look forward to getting to know him. Just listening to one of his long-form interviews is a source of inspiration and comfort. His background and vision seem ideal for this difficult time of turmoil and transition.”
Jyoti Jasrasaria ’12, a third-year law student who chaired the student committee that advised the presidential search, said the committee reached out to students across the University, including law students, to solicit input about the search.
“Personally, I think, based on the outreach that I did to students along with the rest of the committee over the course of the past few months, that what we have seen and heard from Larry Bacow so far it seems like he is going to be a really good president,” Jasrasaria said. “Honestly, I haven’t heard much backlash—I think it might be because people know that I was on the committee and maybe aren’t telling me stuff.”
Historically, the Law School has shown a tendency to strike out on its own and occasionally depart from University-wide policy. Jacob R. Steiner, a third-year Law student who served as a Law School representative on the student advisory committee, said he thinks Bacow’s experience at HLS will translate into a deeper understanding of the school’s specific needs and a stronger relationship between the Law School and the University.
“I think we sort of see ourselves as a little bit more removed from the University than the other schools do and so I think it will be helpful to have a Law School graduate as the president—someone who understands the Law School, who understands its culture, and its history, and its independence but also is willing to push it more to integrate with the rest of the university and to encourage students to feel more like citizens of the University than they maybe do already,” Steiner said.
—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.