Ronald D. Liebowitz Becomes University’s Ninth President

A HEARTY WELCOME: Sydney Derfel '17, from Ithaca, New York, greets Liebowitz at a reception held in the Levin Ballroom in January.
Mike Lovett
A HEARTY WELCOME: Sydney Derfel '17, from Ithaca, New York, greets Liebowitz at a reception held in the Levin Ballroom in January.

Ronald D. Liebowitz will become the ninth president of Brandeis University on July 1.

And, characteristically, this higher-education veteran has already been doing his legwork, getting familiar with the pulse of his new stomping grounds. Over the winter and spring, the former Middlebury College president spent one day a week on campus, meeting with people from all over the university: deans, faculty, senior administrators, institute directors, chaplains and, of course, students. He even enjoyed a few drop-by lunches with students, periodically sitting down at random tables in Sherman Dining Hall. He wanted, he has said, to get a head start on forming the personal relationships that give great universities their spark.

Liebowitz, a 59-year-old New York City native, spent 31 years on the Middlebury faculty as a professor of geography, including seven years as provost. He served as president at Middlebury for 11 years, from 2004 until June 2015. A political geographer who specializes in Russian economic and political geography, Liebowitz earned a BA in economics and geography from Bucknell University and a PhD in geography from Columbia University.

Liebowitz succeeds Lisa M. Lynch, the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy, who has served as Brandeis’ interim president since July 2015. At the end of June, she returns to her previous role as provost and chief academic officer.

“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to lead Brandeis,” said Liebowitz in December after the Board of Trustees voted to appoint him to the presidency. “The university’s founding, based on the premise of offering an education to those who had been excluded from the finest universities, is inspiring. Its commitment to social justice, as espoused by its namesake, represents a precious compass for an institution of higher education in the 21st century. And its Jewish heritage and roots reflect a learning environment committed not only to critical thinking but to self-criticism as well.”

Under Liebowitz’s leadership, Middlebury made enormous academic, programmatic, reputational and financial gains, including the successful completion of a $500 million capital campaign, which surpassed its goal. He also oversaw critical strategic investments in Middlebury’s academic enterprise.

In 2009, Time magazine named Liebowitz one of the 10 best U.S. college presidents.

“Ron was a transformational leader for Middlebury College,” says Marna Whittington, Middlebury’s board chair.

“I am extremely pleased that Ron has been selected to lead Brandeis,” says Lynch. “He has deep experience in recruiting and supporting exceptional faculty, which is so fundamental to the distinctive educational experience we offer our undergraduate and graduate students, and to our extraordinary scholarly and artistic contributions.”

Liebowitz was on sabbatical this past academic year, working on a research project with his wife, Jessica. Their research focuses on the future of doctoral education, assessing both its far-reaching impact on education at all levels and its illumination of the deepest challenges facing higher education today.