Provost David Harris to become president of Union College

Former Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris poses for a portrait on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily

Tufts University Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris announced today that he will be leaving Tufts to become the president of Union College in July 2018.

The announcement came Tuesday afternoon via the Union College and Tufts University Twitter accounts, a Union College press conference live stream on Facebook and an email sent by the Office of the President to the Tufts community.

According to this email, Deborah Kochevar, dean and Henry and Lois Foster professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, will fill Harris’s role as provost while the university seeks a permanent replacement.

At the press conference at Union College, Harris gave a speech in which he thanked Union’s search committee, community and faculty. His remarks included reflections on his experiences as a first-generation college student, his work on increasing academic diversity and his family life.

Harris also commented on the role that Union can play in reaffirming the importance of knowledge and a liberal arts education in the current political climate.

“I believe that Union College has to be part of a renewed commitment to knowledge and expertise in this country and this world,” he said near the end of the press conference. “Knowledge and expertise have been under assault by a troubling confluence of postmodernist theory, opportunism and disillusionment. It’s what’s given us fake news.”

Harris is ending a six-year tenure at Tufts, during which time he introduced the T10 Strategic Plan 2013–2023, Tufts’ first university-wide strategic plan, according to the emailed message. The plan created new institutions at the university, including the 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program and multiple Bridge Professorships, bringing together fields from multiple schools of the university.

The T10 plan also called for greater diversity and inclusivity on Tufts campus, which included creating the position of Chief Diversity Officer and the Bridging Differences initiative.

In the email sent to the Tufts community, University President Anthony Monaco highlighted Harris’s leadership role in the incorporation of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) into the university.

“David also shepherded the transition of [the 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,” Monaco said.

Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon lauded Harris’s work at Tufts.

“In my nearly four years working with David Harris at Tufts, he has consistently demonstrated a keen understanding of and commitment to fostering and supporting transformational experiences for both AS&E undergraduate students and graduate students across the University’s ten schools,” she told the Daily in an email.

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences James Glaser also highlighted Harris’s development initiatives.

“The [T10] plan, of course, was a community effort, but it required a strong leader to bring it all together,” Glaser told the Daily in an email. “Personally, I will miss him, but I also know he’s going to be a very effective president at Union College.”

Jianmin Qu, dean of the School of Engineering, shared these sentiments.

“Tufts will be missing a passionate advocate for students and their learning experience. More importantly, we will be missing a leader who cares deeply about equity, fairness, diversity and inclusion at every level,” he said.


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