Skills for life: from Michigan Boy Scout to Harvard President

The incoming president of Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities in the US, was a Boy Scout.

Lawrence Bacow, whose appointment was announced on Sunday, has credited Scouting with making him the man he is today.

The son of East European refugees – his mother survived Auschwitz - says it was as a young Scout in Michigan that he learned to get along with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and faiths.

“The simple answer is that I learned to be a leader in Scouting,”

Bacow told a gathering of Boy Scouts in 2010 while he was President of Tufts University. The 12 points of the Boy Scout law still play a part in his decision-making, he added.

Bacow’s parents enrolled him in his local Scout troop and he became an Eagle Scout in 1966, according to Bryan Wendell of Bryan on Scouting. In 2002, he was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award -in recognition of his services to education and community.

In announcing their decision to appoint Bacow, Harvard cited his exemplary record in higher education – Bacow was president at Tufts for a decade and spent 24 years on the faculty of MIT – and his approach to leadership.

“Larry Bacow is one of the most accomplished, admired, insightful, and effective leaders in American higher education,”

said William F. Lee, A.B. who chaired the university’s presidential search committee.

“This is a pivotal moment for higher education — one full of extraordinary possibilities to pursue new knowledge, enhance education, and serve society, but also a time when the singular value of higher education and university research has too often been challenged and called into doubt. Such a time calls for skilful leadership, strategic thinking, and disciplined execution. Larry will provide just that.”

Katie Lapp, who chaired the staff advisory committee on the appointment, also praised Bacow’s leadership.

“Throughout his career, Larry Bacow has demonstrated an ability to build and inspire teams, and to engage openly and authentically with staff,”

she said.

Bacow, who has degrees from MIT and Harvard, takes up his new position on July 1. Harvard was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has about 20,000 students. There are more than 360,000 alumni across the world.

Photo credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

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