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Morton O. Schapiro Named Northwestern University President

Morton Owen Schapiro, president of Williams College, professor of economics and one of the country's leading experts in the economics of higher education, has been named the 16th president of Northwestern.

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December 16, 2008 | by Alan K. Cubbage

For a video, downloadable photo and additional information, go to www.northwestern.edu/newpresident/

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Morton Owen Schapiro, president of Williams College, professor of economics and one of the country's leading experts in the economics of higher education, has been named president of Northwestern University, Patrick G. Ryan, chairman of Northwestern's board of trustees, announced today (Dec. 16, 2008).

Schapiro, 55, will become Northwestern's 16th president, effective Sept. 1, 2009. He will succeed Henry S. Bienen, who will step down after a highly successful presidency spanning 14 years.

"We are delighted that President Schapiro has accepted our offer to become Northwestern's next president and we look forward to his arrival on campus next fall," Ryan said. "I am confident that with his passion for education and experience fostering cutting-edge interdisciplinary teaching and research that he is a great match for Northwestern. He shares the aspirations of the Board of Trustees and University community for further enhancing the excellence of Northwestern."

Northwestern's Board of Trustees approved the selection of Schapiro on Saturday.

"I am excited by the opportunity to serve as Northwestern's president," said Schapiro. "Northwestern has a long tradition of excellence, and I look forward to building on the successes that the University has achieved under the leadership of President Bienen."

"I will always treasure my experience at Williams, where I've learned so much," Schapiro added. "It will be difficult to leave Williams, one of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges, but this is a tremendous opportunity to go to one of the best major research universities in the country. I very much look forward to being there and getting to know the Northwestern community."

Schapiro has been president of Williams, located in Williamstown, Mass., since 2000. For six years prior to that, he was the Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California, where he previously had been professor and chair of the economics department. During his last two years as dean, he also served as USC's Vice President for Planning. He previously was on the faculty of Williams from 1980 to 1991 as professor of economics and assistant provost.

Among the initiatives implemented during his presidency at Williams have been a substantial reduction in average class size, a tripling of the number of courses offered in the college's signature tutorial program and the completion of a number of major building projects including a center for theater and dance, a student center, and new faculty office/classroom buildings.

"President Schapiro is a very unusual person in that he has deep experience in research universities and at one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country," said William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton and former president of the Mellon Foundation. "He has demonstrated accomplishments as a great teacher and an outstanding leader."

Schapiro has a strong commitment to undergraduate education and he has continued to teach while president: introductory microeconomics, a tutorial on the economics of higher education, and two interdisciplinary seminars, one on the economics and philosophy of education, and the other on disease, culture and society.

He is among the nation's premier authorities on the economics of higher education, with particular expertise in the area of college financing and affordability, and on trends in educational costs and student aid. He has testified before U.S. Senate and House committees on economic and educational issues and is often quoted in the national media. He has written more than 100 articles and five books, and has edited two others, most with his long-time co-author Michael McPherson. These include: The Student Aid Game: Meeting Need and Rewarding Talent in American Higher Education (Princeton University Press 1998); Paying the Piper: Productivity, Incentives and Financing in Higher Education (also with Gordon Winston, University of Michigan Press 1993); and Keeping College Affordable: Government and Educational Opportunity (Brookings 1991), plus two recent edited volumes College Success: What It Means and How to Make It Happen (College Board 2008) and College Access: Opportunity or Privilege? (College Board 2006).

Schapiro has received research grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the World Bank, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the College Board, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other groups to study the economics of higher education and related topics.

Schapiro's selection follows a nine-month search by a committee that included trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni. The committee was chaired by William Osborn, a 1969 graduate of Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a 1973 graduate of the Kellogg School of Management. Osborn is chair of the Board of Trustees budget committee and chairman of the Northern Trust Corp., Chicago.

"The search committee received numerous excellent nominations for the position, but President Schapiro was the unanimous choice of the search committee," Osborn said. "His grasp of the issues facing higher education, the complexities of a research university, his impressive record of academic achievement and leadership and his instant rapport with all the members of the committee made it clear that he was a perfect fit for Northwestern," Osborn said.

Schapiro received his bachelor's degree in economics from Hofstra University in 1975 and his doctorate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979.

He and his wife Mimi have three children: Matt, Alissa, and Rachel.

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