February 20, 2018
Dear members of the Tufts community,
I am writing to share news that David R. Harris, provost and senior vice president, will assume the role of president at Union College in July 2018. Please join me in congratulating both Union for making such an inspired choice and David for being recognized as a dynamic and accomplished leader. I know that David will bring to the Union presidency the same intellectual rigor, strategic thinking, and enormous energy that have benefitted Tufts during his tenure.
David has been a tremendous academic partner since his arrival in 2012. Within months of his coming to Tufts, he initiated a comprehensive and inclusive year-long effort to create Tufts’ first university-wide strategic plan, the T10 Strategic Plan 2013-2023. Approved by the Board of Trustees in 2013, T10 builds on Tufts’ existing strengths while laying out a vision for its future. The plan was the foundation for each of the school-based strategic plans that followed and served as a blueprint for Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts.
Emerging from the strategic plan were a number of exciting initiatives, including the 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program, a novel initiative to energize civic renewal by providing students entering Tufts an opportunity to engage in a year of international or national service before beginning the traditional four-year college experience. Since its inception, three cohorts of students have participated in the program, working on projects across the nation and the world. T10 also helped the university reimagine the way that academic departments appoint faculty through the creation of Bridge Professorships that span two or more schools to advance research and teaching on complex issues. To date, Bridge Professorships have been created in cognitive science (in the Schools of Engineering and Arts and Sciences) and cybersecurity (The Fletcher School and the School of Engineering), and hires inspired by the Bridge Professor program now span Tisch College and the School of Arts and Sciences, and humanities departments in the School of Arts and Sciences. The most recent academic initiative to grow out of T10 is the creation of the Data-Intensive Studies Center (DISC), which will enable faculty and students to harness the power of big data to answer questions across the disciplines.
The T10 plan also called for the university to amplify its institutional commitment to diversity and inclusion. David established the new position of chief diversity officer and associate provost, now held by Amy Freeman, and this past fall he launched Bridging Differences, a new initiative to empower the Tufts community—and our colleagues across higher education—to develop the skills to grapple with difficult ideas and engage in informed and civil discussion and debate on issues on which they may disagree profoundly.
David has likewise been instrumental in bringing to Tufts the newest generation of leadership, including, most recently, Sarah Booth as director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts. David also appointed new deans for the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, the School of Engineering, the School of Arts and Sciences, Tisch College of Civic Life, and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. He brought new leadership to athletics and the Institute for Global Leadership with the hiring of John Morris and Abi Williams, respectively. The Office of the Provost was enhanced by the creation of the vice provost position, and recruitment of Kevin Dunn into the role.
David also shepherded the transition of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) to Tufts, expanding the 70-year relationship between the SMFA and the university, creating a distinctive school of fine arts within a major research university while maintaining a close relationship with the internationally acclaimed Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
David has nurtured the Boards of Advisors at each of the schools, and oversaw the establishment of an international office, led by Diana Chigas, which draws together the work of myriad international centers and institutes from across the university. In addition, the appointment of Simin Meydani as vice provost for research has led to the university’s first strategic planning process for research and scholarship.
David also partnered with me to launch Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts, our most ambitious fundraising effort to date. Through his work with our alumni, parents and friends, David helped to secure a recent $8 million gift from the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation for the establishment of the Institute for Research on Learning and Instruction.
David is known for his warm and welcoming style, evident in the breakfasts that he has hosted for members of our community and in his Tufts Century Ride, which has gathered together faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and other community members for an annual bike ride that includes stops in Boston, Grafton, and Medford/Somerville.
David leaves big shoes to fill, and we will soon begin the difficult process of identifying a worthy successor. In the interim, I am pleased to announce that Deborah T. Kochevar, currently dean and Henry and Lois Foster Professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, has agreed to serve as provost ad interim. Dean Kochevar has led Cummings School since 2006 building on strengths in clinical and translational medicine, internationalism and One Health research addressing well-being of animals, people and the environment. Cummings School’s 2020 Strategic Plan and Brighter World campaign goals have prioritized excellence in teaching and learning and promoted a diverse culture that values people as its greatest resource. Dean Kochevar has championed cross-university initiatives to create innovative partnerships and strategic funding affiliations. Additional information about the search process for our new provost will be forthcoming, as will an announcement about the appointment of an interim Cummings School dean. Meanwhile, please join me in thanking Debbie for taking on this important role.
We will miss David very much, but will watch with great enthusiasm as Union College enters a new era of achievement under his strong leadership. Please join me in congratulating David and thanking him for his remarkable service to Tufts University.