Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School Debora Spar will take over as Barnard's next president at the end of the academic year, the Spectator learned Tuesday morning.
Spar follows current president Judith Shapiro, who is retiring as president after a marathon tenure of 14 years. The turnover comes during a time of transition as Barnard redefines its standing as a women's college and its physical campus.
Spar, Barnard's 11th president, will be officially introduced to Barnard faculty shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday and will be on hand for a highly anticipated campus-wide "celebration" of the college in the evening.
“Barnard College offers something that is increasingly hard to find in our world yet increasingly important: an intense and intimate liberal arts environment devoted solely to the education of women,” said Spar in a statement Tuesday morning.
The new president graduated magna cum laude from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and earned her doctorate in government. Spar has served as Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at the Harvard Business School. She has written six books about business, in many articles. In 2001, "Why the Internet Doesn't Change Everything" described the distinctive nature of the Internet industry. Her penultimate book, The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception, pioneered research about the economy of alternative fertility. Spar was the first academic to mention fertility as a transaction through a business framework.
In various interviews online, Spar said that when she picked up the research topic of fertility through an economic lens, her colleagues did not take her seriously and called her soft. She followed up in 2006 with a book named "The Hidden Market for Babies."
Spar has also written about AIDS, African economics, the global economy, the balance of power, and terrorism.
“As a student, I felt it was important that the next leader of Barnard be in tune with campus life and student issues,” said presidential search committee member Laura Stoffel, BC '08 and president of the Student Government Association. “She is a great listener and amazingly competent. I just can’t say enough about all her wonderful qualities.”
A leading figure in business academics, Spar also runs Making Markets Work, joint program between Harvard Business School and the University of Pretoria Gordon Institute of Business Education. The course in South Africa teaches about the interconnection of the public and private sectors' effects on economic growth. Spar also spearheaded the initiative in Rwanda, where cabinet members learned about executive education.
"During extensive referencing with colleagues, we were told many times that Barnard could find no better leader for the future. All of us agreed," said Anna Quindlen, chair of Barnard's board of trustees and head of the search committee, in an e-mail to Barnard students. "The members of the search committee found themselves continually impressed by her prodigious intellect, her global expertise, her ability both to build consensus and introduce innovation as an administrator, and her devotion to acting as mentor and resource for female faculty and students."
Spar's qualities as a leading scholar are coupled by what peers call outstanding teaching skills. Spar was awarded the Student Association Faculty Award for Outstanding Teachings and has advised students on research projects.
University President Lee Bollinger said he looks forward to working with Spar. "We are delighted to welcome Debora Spar to the Barnard-Columbia community," Bollinger said in a statement. "Her appointment opens an exciting new chapter for this premier women's college. We share Barnard's enthusiasm and know that Professor Spar's arrival will continue to enhance our longstanding and successful partnership with Barnard. She is a respected scholar whose admired teaching and pioneering research have provided new perspectives on many areas of business, government and our society. "