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Bienen Named Chairman of Association of American Universities

October 24, 2006 | by Alan K. Cubbage

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University President Henry S. Bienen has been named chairman of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of top research universities in the United States and Canada.

Bienen was elected at the annual meeting of the association Tuesday at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

The AAU is an association of 62 leading research universities organized to develop and implement effective national and institutional policies supporting research and scholarship, graduate and undergraduate education and public service at research universities. AAU universities conduct 60 percent of all federally funded university research and award more than half of all doctoral degrees in the United States.

As chairman, Bienen will serve as a key leader and spokesman for higher education on national issues and will help represent the AAU in meetings with government leaders, both nationally and internationally.

“I'm very pleased to take on this leadership role with the AAU,” Bienen said. “This organization has been vitally important in highlighting the importance of university research and in the development of higher education policy and self-regulation by academic institutions.

“The value of a college degree has never been greater, and our research universities contribute enormously to the nation's competitiveness,” Bienen added.  “But higher education faces increasing calls to demonstrate its worth. I look forward to challenging and straightforward discussions with government leaders and my colleagues on issues that are vital to the future of American higher education.”

Bienen identified several top priorities for the coming year, including:

• Advocating on behalf of President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative, which commits $50 billion over 10 years to increase investments in research and development.

• Encouraging greater support for the National Institutes of Health.

• Urging Congress to provide additional federal support for grants for low-income students.

The AAU and its members also will address issues raised by the Department of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Bienen was selected as chair because he has extensive experience on a variety of national committees and organizations, said Robert M. Berdahl, president of the AAU.

“As one of the longest-serving leaders of an AAU institution, President Bienen brings a deep understanding of the issues facing research universities today,” Berdahl said.

Bienen has been president of Northwestern since 1995. He is one of three university presidents awarded the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award for innovative leadership in higher education. The honor carries a $500,000 award for the institution and recognizes leaders of institutions of higher education who have demonstrated an abiding commitment to liberal arts and who have initiated and supported curricular innovations, including development of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs that aim to bridge the gulf between the theoretical and the practical.

Bienen is a member of the board of directors of The Bear Stearns Companies Inc. and Rasmussen College, Inc. He is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves as chair of the nominating and governance committee and member of the executive committee. He also is a member of the board of directors of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and serves on its executive committee. He was named to the Argonne National Laboratory's Board of Governors and will serve as a member of the board's executive and nominating committees.

The AAU was founded in 1900 to strengthen and standardize doctoral programs in the United States. Northwestern has been a member since 1917.