Courtesy Williams Public Affairs
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Williams College President Morton Owen Schapiro announced Tuesday that he will become president of Northwestern University beginning Sept. 1, 2009. Pres. Schapiro serves as a member of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council.
"Twenty of my thirty years in academe have been spent at Williams and I've loved virtually every minute," Pres. Schapiro said in a letter e-mailed today to Williams students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents. "The past nine as president have been the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life. But with the completion of our comprehensive campaign this month and my strong feeling that institutions need new leadership every decade or so, I think the timing is right."
During his presidency, which began in 2000, Williams has substantially reduced average class size, tripled the number of courses offered in its signature tutorial program, and completed several major building projects, including a center for theater and dance, a student center, and faculty office and classroom buildings.
Pres. Schapiro has led a significant expansion of the college's access and affordability. Since 2000, the undergraduates who identify themselves as U.S. students of color have risen from a quarter to a third. Students who qualify for financial aid have grown from 40% to 50%, and those who qualify for grant aid that covers at least three-quarters of the price of attendance have grown from one in 20 to almost one in five. Williams has eliminated loan expectations from all financial aid packages and capped the amount of home equity used in calculating how much parents can afford to pay. For students qualifying for financial aid (who come from 95% of the U.S. family income distribution) the median net price of attending Williams has decreased during his presidency by more than a third when controlling for inflation.
The college has also expanded to international students its policy of admitting applicants without regard to their ability to pay and promising to meet 100% of their demonstrated financial need for four years. In recent years it has also adopted an ambitious goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and begun to seek ways to make the experience of its students more global.
To support these strategic changes, Williams launched a comprehensive fund raising campaign, which will close at the end of this month well past its goal of $400 million.
Under Schapiro's leadership, Williams has greatly expanded its involvement in the local community. New initiatives include launching of the Williams Center at Mt. Greylock Regional School, partnering with MASS MoCA and the Yale University Art Gallery on the installation at MoCA of wall drawings by Sol Lewitt, and establishing an endowed fund projected over 20 years to make available millions of dollars for building renewal at Williamstown Elementary School.
"These accomplishments have been made possible by the passion, energy, and brilliance Morty has brought to the presidency," Greg Avis, chairman of the Executive Committee of the Williams Board of Trustees said in an accompanying letter. "By any measure, Williams is better positioned today because of initiatives he has expertly led.
"While we will be very sad to see them depart the Purple Valley, we are deeply excited for Morty, Mimi, and their family as they anticipate and prepare for their next adventure."
Avis said he would begin immediately to assemble a Presidential Search Committee composed of trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.
In addition to frequently attending the college's many cultural and athletic events, Schapiro has continued to teach: introductory microeconomics, a tutorial on the economics of higher education, and two interdisciplinary seminars, one on the economics and philosophy of higher education and the other on disease, culture, and society.
While president, he has co-edited, with his long-time scholarly colleague Michael McPherson, two books -- "College Access: Opportunity or Privilege" (College Board 2006) and "College Success: What It Means and How to Make It Happen" (College Board 2008) -- and written numerous articles.
Pres. Schapiro 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 been widely quoted in the national media and testified before U.S. Senate and House committees on economic and educational issues.
He previously served as a member of the Williams faculty from 1980 to 1991. He then moved to the University of Southern California, as chair of the Department of Economics until 1994 and then as dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences until 2000.
Pres. Schapiro received his bachelor's degree from Hofstra University and doctorate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been awarded honorary degrees by Hebrew Union, Williams, and Amherst colleges and Hofstra and Wesleyan universities.