John Palfrey named new MacArthur President

John Palfrey, a respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator
John Palfrey, a respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator

John Palfrey, a respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning, education, and other institutions, will serve as the 6th President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, effective September 1, 2019.

The Chairman, MacArthur Board, Dan Huttenlocher announced that Palfrey has served as Head of School for Phillips Academy Andover, since 2012.


A press release on MacArthur Foundation website Huttenlocher, who is Dean and Vice Provost at Cornell Tech and the incoming inaugural Dean of MIT Schwarzman College of Computing said: “Throughout his career, John has demonstrated a commitment to rigorous thinking, disruption, and creative solutions often made possible by technology, accessibility of information, and diversity and inclusion; all have long been institutional values central to MacArthur’s identity and work.”


Palfrey has extensive experience making social change, spanning the education, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. Under his leadership, Phillips Academy Andover is the only school of its kind with entirely need-blind admissions. During his tenure, the number of faculty members of color has doubled, and the student body has grown more diverse. He oversaw the creation of the Tang Institute at Andover, which seeks to reform and democratize excellent teaching and learning.


Before coming to Phillips Academy, he served as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. In that role, he expanded the Library’s reach and services, finding innovative ways to use digital technologies to enhance the school’s scholarship and teaching. Palfrey is the author or co-author of nine books, most focused on new media and learning, including Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education; Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age; and BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google.

He brings significant philanthropy experience to his new role at MacArthur. Since 2014, he has been Board Chairman at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which seeks to foster informed and engaged communities with a deep focus on transforming journalism in the digital age. Knight has assets of approximately $2.5 billion and pays out approximately $125 million in grants annually. He joined the Knight Board in 2011.  He served as a judge for the inaugural round of MacArthur’s 100&Change competition, as a member of the confidential MacArthur Fellows Selection Committee, and as a member of the Foundation’s Science Advisory Committee.

“I applaud the selection of John Palfrey as the next President of the MacArthur Foundation,” said current MacArthur President Julia Stasch, who announced in September of 2018 that she would leave the Foundation this year. (Mac-Arthur Foundation)


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