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Dr. Melissa L. Gilliam will be Boston University's 11th president.
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 04 October 2023

BOSTON, PRNewswire/ -- Boston University announced today that Melissa L. Gilliam, MD, the executive vice president and provost of The Ohio State University, and a distinguished educator, scholar, research scientist and physician, will be Boston University's 11th president. She will assume the post on July 1, 2024.

History-making appointment

President-elect Melissa Gilliam is the first woman and the first Black/African-American person to be named President of Boston University.

A national leader in faculty recruitment and student success and a champion of diversity and inclusion, Gilliam is also a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics whose scholarship focuses on developing interventions to promote adolescent health and well-being. Beyond her background in science and medicine, Gilliam, who studied English Literature at Yale and philosophy and politics at Oxford, says she was raised to embrace the societal importance of arts and culture. Her late father, Sam Gilliam, was a pioneering abstract painter who was known for a career of continuous experimentation and innovation. And her mother, Dorothy Gilliam, was a trailblazing journalist and the first Black female reporter hired by the Washington Post. Her parents instilled in her an intellectual curiosity and a firm belief in the importance of civic engagement and public service.

Boston, and Boston University, will be familiar territory for Gilliam. She graduated from Harvard Medical School, and for one of her summer projects there, she collaborated with BU School of Public Health researchers, joining them in Ecuador on a project aimed at understanding the health of elderly people.

"I'm really excited about how engaged Boston University is in the city and how engagement has been a hallmark of BU," says Gilliam. "I'm looking forward to hearing from people, learning and listening.

"I lead by listening, collaborating, and empowering other people.

"That is the best way to run big organizations, to get everyone excited and engaged and empowered and doing more than they think they're capable of doing. This philosophy is core to shared governance, an essential component of a thriving university."

Gilliam succeeds Robert A. Brown, who served as BU's 10th president from 2005 until stepping down over the summer. His 18-year tenure saw BU quadruple its endowment, open its doors to a more diverse student body, and establish itself as a leading private urban research institution and a global leader in fighting infectious diseases. Kenneth Freeman, BU president ad interim since Brown's departure, will remain in the post until Gilliam begins in July and will help her transition into the role during the spring.

The search

Her appointment caps a search that lasted more than a year and yielded close to 400 potential candidates from around the world. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni participated in the process by sharing the characteristics and qualifications they hoped to see in their next president, input that helped shape a presidential profile and guided the work of the 16-person Presidential Search Committee. BU's Board of Trustees voted on Wednesday to confirm Gilliam's appointment.

"It is a testament to Boston University's accomplishments and momentum that we were able to attract candidates who were so highly qualified and with such enormous capability," says Ahmass Fakahany, chair of the BU Board of Trustees. "We are at an incredible juncture, and we've earned the right to dream big and to fulfill the potential of this University. Hiring Dr. Melissa Gilliam is a tremendous step in that direction."

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