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Harvard President Larry Bacow will be Olin College’s 2020 Commencement Speaker

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow Smiles for Camera

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow will be the speaker at Olin College’s fifteenth commencement on May 17, 2020.

One of the most highly regarded academic leaders in America, Bacow was named Harvard’s 29th president in 2018. At Harvard, Bacow has been focused on supporting scholarship and research, encouraging civic engagement, and expanding opportunity for all.

President Bacow chaired the initial Olin accreditation team in 2004 and has been a longtime supporter of the College.

“His personal interest in Olin and his belief in our mission has been inspirational to all of us here, but especially to me,” said Olin College President Richard K. Miller. “President Bacow has a deep understanding of the role of higher education in society, the special importance of STEM education, and the current need for innovation and change. On a personal level, Larry has frequently provided advice and counsel to me over the years. Like many of my colleagues leading colleges and universities, I regard him as a wise and trusted mentor.  

During the first year of his presidency, Bacow established strong partnerships throughout Harvard and across the higher education sector to advance discovery and tackle intractable problems including opioid addiction and social inequality, areas of focus that he believes will improve the lives of people across the United States. He has also prioritized travel to Capitol Hill, where he champions the value of federal research funding and the necessity of immigration reform. Closer to home, he has accelerated the development of Harvard’s expanded presence in Allston.

Prior to Harvard, Bacow has had a long and illustrious career in higher education. From 2001 to 2011, he was president of Tufts University, where he fostered collaboration and advanced the university’s commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and public service. During his tenure at Tufts, the school built an international reputation and increased research funding substantially. At the same time, Bacow became known for his personal engagement with undergraduates, most notably through morning runs that welcomed all comers, a tradition he continues as president of Harvard. 

Prior to Tufts, he spent 24 years on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he held the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professorship of Environmental Studies and served as Chair of the Faculty and as Chancellor.

An expert on non-adjudicatory approaches to the resolution of environmental disputes, President Bacow received an S.B. in economics from MIT, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Ph.D. in public policy from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

As a leading voice in higher education, President Bacow is a sought-after speaker who lectures on a range of topics including his concerns over public criticisms of higher education and about eroding public confidence in the value of higher education.

He is also a vocal supporter of the notion that higher education should prepare students to be active citizens in society and remain a place where opportunity exists for all.