Princeton’s Paxson Named Brown University’s President

Christina Hull Paxson, dean of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, will become Brown University’s 19th president.

She will succeed Ruth Simmons, who was the first black leader of an Ivy League school. Paxson, a 52-year-old economist, begins July 1, the university in Providence, Rhode Island, said today in a statement.

“It is a privilege and honor to join the Brown community,” Paxson said in a statement. “I am drawn to Brown’s distinctive approach to education and scholarship, with its emphasis on intellectual independence and free inquiry.”

The school had to find a true leader to follow Simmons, who established need-blind admissions for undergraduates, expanded the faculty by 100 positions and raised a record $1.61 billion in a seven-year fundraising campaign, Brown Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch, said today.

“Our task was great: to identify the next leader for Brown who embodies the values, skills, talent, and leadership style needed to build upon and continue the extraordinary progress made over the last decade,” Tisch, who led the presidential selection committee, said in a statement. “I am delighted that in Christina Paxson we have found such a leader.”

Tisch, the head of the university’s board of trustees, is managing partner of the Four Partners investment firm.


Brown’s endowment was valued at $2.5 billion as of June 30, 2011, the smallest in the Ivy League of eight colleges in the northeastern U.S.

Paxson joins a small number of women to lead elite research universities, including Drew Faust at Harvard University, Shirley Tilghman at Princeton University, Amy Gutmann at the University of Pennsylvania and Susan Hockfield at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hockfield announced in February she is stepping down.

Paxson, a 1982 graduate of Swarthmore College, earned a doctorate in economics at Columbia University before building her career at Princeton. She started at the university in Princeton, New Jersey, as an assistant professor of economics in 1986.

Revamped Curriculum

As dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, Paxson oversaw the elimination of selective admissions and the revamping of the curriculum to place greater emphasis on multidisciplinary learning, independent research, and field experience in the U.S. and abroad.

“Chris Paxson has left an indelible mark on this university,” Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton’s president, said in a statement. “Chris has consistently shown the kind of good judgment and admirable leadership that makes her a natural choice as Brown’s president.”

Simmons served on the board of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for 10 years. She declined to stand for re-election in 2010 amid criticism from students over her ties to the investment bank following the 2008 financial crisis. Simmons cited time demands for the reason.

Paxson is married to Ari Gabinet, executive vice president and general counsel of OppenheimerFunds Inc. They have two sons, Nicholas, 22, and Benjamin, 14.

“Woodrow Wilson is a pretty complicated school and she’s already done a number of things here she’ll need to do as president,” Nannerl Keohane, a former Duke president and a Wilson faculty member, said today in a telephone interview. “She is smart, articulate, warm, strategic and inclusive.”

Founded in 1764, Brown has about 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students and 400 attending its medical school, according to the university.

Alumni include Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America Corp., who is a member of the Brown Corporation; bank analyst Meredith Whitney and Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island’s governor.

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