The nineteenth President

Economist Christina Hull Paxson elected 19th president of Brown University

March 2, 2012  |  Media Contact: Marisa Quinn |  401-863-2453
Christina Hull Paxson - Nineteenth President-elect of Brown University
Christina Hull Paxson Nineteenth President-elect of Brown University Credit: Mike Cohea and Frank Mullin/Brown University
The Corporation of Brown University, meeting in special session Friday morning, March 2, 2012, has elected Christina Hull Paxson to be the University’s 19th president. Paxson is currently dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In a special session this morning, the Corporation of Brown University elected Christina Hull Paxson, currently dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, as the 19th president of Brown University. She will assume her duties at Brown on July 1, 2012.

“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,” said Brown Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch, who chaired the Presidential Selection Committee of the Corporation. “I am delighted that in Christina Paxson we have found such a leader. Her breadth and depth of experience, inherent multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research, and clear commitment to excellence position her beautifully to lead Brown at this critical juncture in the University’s history.”

Paxson’s selection came after a six-month search conducted jointly by the Corporation committee and a Campus Advisory Committee of faculty, students and staff. Both committees — 29 members in all — met regularly during the search and coordinated their activities as they sought to identify the University’s 19th president. They sought input and contributions from a broad range of University constituents. The committees were supported in their work by consultants from Spencer Stuart, an international executive search firm. The Brown University charter of 1764 specifically charges the Corporation with the election of a president.

“We listened carefully to the campus community as we undertook this critically important task,” said Chung-I Tan, professor of physics and chair of the Campus Advisory Committee. “Committee members engaged in a thoughtful and deliberative process to find a candidate with the experience, personal characteristics, and accomplishments that align with the interests of the community. We were particularly impressed by Dr. Paxson’s background, skills, and approach to leadership, and believe she is extremely well suited for the challenges and opportunities facing Brown’s next president.”

Paxson arrives after a decade of significant growth at Brown. Under the Plan for Academic Enrichment, the University increased the size of its faculty by approximately 20 percent, extended and strengthened programs of financial aid, constructed and renovated new research and academic spaces, and made significant investments in graduate and medical education. Brown completed a successful $1.6-billion comprehensive campaign in December 2010.

“The search committee at Brown University has made a truly inspired choice for its 19th president, although it means that Princeton will lose one its most distinguished faculty members and effective academic administrators,” said Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton University. “At every stage of her 26 years at Princeton, Chris Paxson has left an indelible mark on this University. Chris has consistently shown the kind of good judgment and admirable leadership that makes her a natural choice as Brown's president. As sad as I am to lose her as a colleague at Princeton, it will be a great pleasure to welcome her to the Council of Ivy Presidents.”

Christina Hull Paxson

A 1982 honors graduate of Swarthmore College, Phi Beta Kappa, Paxson earned her graduate degrees in economics at Columbia University (M.A., 1985; Ph.D., 1987). She began her academic career at Princeton University in 1986, becoming assistant professor of economics and public affairs the next year. She became a full professor in 1997 and was named the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Economics and Public Affairs in 2007. Graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School have given her five annual awards for teaching excellence.

Initially working on international economic problems of labor supply, mobility, savings, inequality, and aging, Paxson focused increasingly on the relationship of economic factors to health and welfare over the life course, particularly on the health and welfare of children. In 2000, she founded the Center for Health and Wellbeing, an interdisciplinary research center in the Woodrow Wilson School. The center established multidisciplinary graduate and undergraduate certificate programs in health and health policy. She served as the center’s director until 2009.

Paxson also has served as associate chair (2005-08) and chair (2008-09) of the Department of Economics at Princeton and was the founding director of a National Institute on Aging Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging at Princeton. She was elected as vice president of the American Economics Association in 2012 and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has been the principal investigator on a number of research projects supported by the National Institutes of Health, the most recent of which is a study of adversity and resilience after Hurricane Katrina.

As dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, Paxson has overseen significant changes in the undergraduate major in public and international affairs, which included eliminating selective admissions and revamping the curriculum to place greater emphasis on multidisciplinary learning, independent research, and field experience in the United States and internationally. Under her leadership, the Woodrow Wilson School founded the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy and Finance and increased opportunities for research and teaching on issues related to domestic and international financial markets.

Paxson is married to Ari Gabinet, who is currently executive vice president and general counsel of Oppenheimer Funds. They have two sons, Nicholas, 22, and Benjamin, 14.

“It is a privilege and honor to join the Brown community,” Paxson said. “I am drawn to Brown’s distinctive approach to education and scholarship, with its emphasis on intellectual independence and free inquiry. Under Ruth Simmons’s leadership, the University has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade. I look forward to working with the exceptional community that is Brown to continue to build this extraordinary institution.”

Further information about the presidential search is available online.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.