Henry Bienen

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Henry Samuel Bienen (born 1939) is an American academic administrator and former president of Northwestern University. He was elected president on June 13, 1994 and took office on January 1, 1995. He announced his retirement effective August 31, 2009. He has since taken a position with Rasmussen College as Vice Chairman effective September 1, 2009; he will also serve as chairman of the United Football League's board of directors.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Bienen succeeded Arnold R. Weber as president of Northwestern. During President Bienen's tenure, Northwestern underwent many changes. The average SAT score for entering freshmen increased by more than 125 points, the total university budget doubled to $1.4 billion, the university's endowment more than tripled to approximately $7 billion and the amount of sponsored research done at Northwestern doubled to more than $350 million annually. In 1997, Northwestern was listed by U.S. News & World Report in the top ten universities for undergraduates for the first time. Northwestern was ranked consistently in the top 10 or 15 U.S. universities by U.S. News & World Report since he took office.

President Bienen's time at Northwestern was also marked by sometimes difficult relations with Evanston, with one lawsuit against the city of Evanston reaching the US Supreme Court.[citation needed] Northwestern's relations with Evanston's mayor Lorraine H. Morton had been more positive than with other city councilmen.

Bienen taught a very popular political science seminar for undergraduates at Northwestern. Early on in his presidency, a strong undergraduate movement emerged calling on the university to add Asian American studies. The movement took a number of actions including a hunger strike, after facing resistance from the Northwestern Administration. Northwestern ultimately created the department after a few years of campus activity. In addition, Northwestern's athletic program had many successes during Bienen's term. Northwestern's football program, which historically had not been as strong as other Big Ten teams, improved. The team appeared in five bowl games during Bienen's tenure, including a 1996 trip to the Rose Bowl, its first in nearly fifty years.

Under his leadership, Northwestern embarked on a large fundraising campaign resulting in the construction of major new buildings on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Additions to the Evanston campus included: the Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly; the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center; and the McCormick Tribune Center, home to the Medill School of Journalism; and the Arthur and Gladys Pancoe-Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Life Sciences Pavilion. During Bienen's term The International Center for Advanced Internet Research ICAIR was also created at Northwestern in conjunction with IBM and other corporate partners and, on its Chicago campus, Northwestern opened the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center.

Bienen came under fire in May 2008 with the choice of Chicago mayor Richard Daley as the 2008 commencement speaker. Some students believed Daley was an insufficient speaker, with concerns focusing on his ethics, lack of relevance outside of Chicago, and the fact that recent commencements had more influential speakers, including Senators Barack Obama and John McCain.

Prior to becoming president of Northwestern, Bienen served as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Foreign Policy at Princeton University. During his early academic career, he was a respected analyst of ethnic conflict and the influence of the military and of violence on development in the third world and especially Africa. He was director of Princeton's Center of International Studies during 1985–92. Bienen also served on the Board of Directors of Bear Stearns beginning in 2004 until that firm's collapse during the financial crisis of 2008.

Bienen received a bachelor's degree with honors from Cornell University in 1960. He then received a master's degree in 1961 and a Ph.D. in 1966, both from the University of Chicago. In 1998, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[2] He received the University of Chicago Professional Achievement Alumni Award in 2000.


Northwestern University President Henry S. Bienen, who led the University to increased academic prominence, financial strength, athletic success, and student satisfaction, retired from his position on August 31, 2009, a decision announced by Patrick G. Ryan, chair of the University's Board of Trustees.

In a letter to the Northwestern community, Bienen said, "I continue to enjoy my job immensely, but I truly believe that it is important for institutions to be refreshed regularly with new leadership.

"I have been privileged to work with many, many outstanding Northwestern faculty, students, staff, alumni, and trustees," Bienen added. "It has been an honor to serve as Northwestern's president — and a great experience."

In September 2008, the Northwestern University School of Music was renamed the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music to honor President Bienen and his wife, Leigh Buchanan Bienen.

In December 2008, Morton O. Schapiro was named President Bienen's successor.


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