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Cultural Commentator Barry Glassner Named 24th President

September 08, 2010

  • President-Elect Barry Glassner with wife Betsy Amster
    President-Elect Barry Glassner with wife Betsy Amster

After a year-long search, Lewis & Clark’s Board of Trustees has named Barry Glassner, Ph.D., a noted cultural commentator and the executive vice provost at the University of Southern California, the college’s 24th president. Chosen by a unanimous vote of the trustees, he will begin his duties in late October.

“I’m enormously excited and honored to have this opportunity,” Glassner says. “Lewis & Clark has a configuration that is unique in higher education: a law school with programs that are top-ranked nationally; a graduate school that produces many of the region’s top education leaders; and an undergraduate college with amazing students— seven Fulbright Scholars this year alone—and an unparalleled level of international engagement.

“Add to that an accomplished faculty that has a reputation for being uncommonly engaged with their students, and a devoted board and 36,000 proud alumni—not to mention the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen—and it is an awfully exciting place.”

Glassner has built a successful career as a professor and administrator at several institutions of higher education. A keen observer of American culture, Glassner is the author or coauthor of nine books, including the national bestseller The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things (1999). An updated edition has been released this year. His research has also been featured in a wide range of mainstream media outlets and scholarly journals.

Before becoming USC’s executive vice provost, Glassner served as director of the USC Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, and prior to that he chaired the Department of Sociology. Earlier in his career, Glassner led academic departments at Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut. He earned his B.A. from Northwestern University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.

Glassner is married to Betsy Amster, a literary agent and president of Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises.

Glassner was recommended unanimously to the Board of Trustees by the Presidential Search Committee, comprising trustees and faculty, staff, and student representatives. The chair of the search committee, Trustee Jay Waldron, says the committee was impressed by Glassner’s ability to build relationships with a broad range of stakeholders working toward a common vision.

Glassner is credited with playing a prominent role in USC’s development into one of the top private universities in the country. “Our committee was impressed by the work he did to unite the university’s disparate departments and build a singular strategic vision for its future,” says Waldron.

“In our conversations, Barry articulated a vision that builds on the strengths of the Lewis & Clark community and its rich and diverse set of academic offerings,” says Waldron. “His experience at USC uniquely prepares him to lead the three schools of Lewis & Clark.”

Glassner’s reputation as an effective leader is well known in the academic arena. The president of Northwestern University, Morton Schapiro, says he believes Glassner will be a tremendous asset to Lewis & Clark.

“Barry is a perfect fit for such a fine institution,” says Schapiro, who previously served as president of Williams College. “He is a fabulous administrator, superb scholar, and excellent teacher. Equally important is the fact that he is a wonderful person. The students, faculty, alumni, and staff at Lewis & Clark are in for a real treat.”

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