Boston University Names Melissa L. Gilliam 11th President

Melissa L. Gilliam, M.D., executive vice president and provost of The Ohio State University, will be the 11th president of Boston University, one of the largest private residential universities in the United States. She succeeds Robert A. Brown, who served as BU’s 10th president from 2005 until stepping down over the summer.

Kenneth Freeman, BU president ad interim since Brown’s departure, will remain in the post until Dr. Gilliam begins on July 1, 2024, and will help her transition into the role during the spring.

A national leader in faculty recruitment and student success and a champion of diversity and inclusion, Dr. Gilliam is also a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics whose scholarship focuses on developing interventions to promote adolescent health and wellbeing. She studied English literature at Yale, philosophy and politics at Oxford University, and graduated from Harvard Medical School, but she is no stranger to BU. While at Harvard, she collaborated with BU School of Public Health researchers on one of her summer projects, 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,” she says. “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.”

Dr. Gilliam’s 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 her appointment.

Explaining her studies in English literature, philosophy and politics, Dr. Gilliam says she hails from a family that embraced the societal importance of arts and culture, encouraged intellectual curiosity, and held a firm belief in the importance of civic engagement and public service. Her late father, Sam Gilliam, was a pioneering abstract painter known for a career of continuous experimentation and innovation; her mother, Dorothy Gilliam, was a trailblazing journalist and the first Black female reporter hired by the Washington Post.

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