Larry Bacow, next president of Harvard, says ‘I learned to be a leader in Scouting’

Larry Bacow, a Distinguished Eagle Scout who is “one of the most experienced and respected leaders in American higher education,” will be the next president of Harvard University.

Harvard announced the selection on Sunday, calling Bacow someone who has “the curiosity and keen intelligence of a scholar and teacher, the vision and steady hand of a seasoned leader of institutions, and the energetic commitment and buoyant stamina of a devoted marathoner.”

Sounds like an Eagle Scout to me.

Son of immigrants

Bacow is the son of an Eastern European refugee and an Auschwitz survivor. His parents came to this country with nothing and started a family in Pontiac, Mich.

They also enrolled their son in Scouting, and that proved beneficial. Bacow said his time as a Scout opened his eyes to the world beyond Michigan.

“If not for Scouting, I would not have had the opportunity to learn so many things and do so many things that continue to be important to me today,” Bacow said in 2010. “Whether or not it’s camping, skiing, sailing or swimming, it was through Scouting that I learned and was exposed to all of these things like so many of us are.”

Bacow earned Scouting’s highest honor on Sept. 26, 1966, as a member of Troop 7 in Pontiac.

A Distinguished Eagle Scout

On Aug. 21, 2002, the Boston-based Spirit of Adventure Council presented Bacow with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

The award is presented to Eagle Scouts who have demonstrated service to their profession and community for at least 25 years after becoming Eagles.

Bacow was president of Tufts University when he received the honor.

In 2010, the Mohegan Council invited Bacow to a celebration of BSA’s 100th anniversary. He told the crowd that the 12 points of the Scout Law have stayed with him, calling it “the cornerstone of effective leadership.”

When asked how he learned the skills necessary to be a university president, Bacow didn’t hestitate.

“The simple answer is that I learned to be a leader in Scouting,” he said.

Harvard’s next president

On July 1, Bacow will officially begin his new role.

The role of Harvard president has been around a century longer than the role of U.S. president. The first person in the job, Henry Dunster, served from 1640 to 1654.

“Those of us privileged to lead this university are invested with a precious trust,” Bacow said after his selection. “I promise to do everything within my power to prove worthy of it.”


Thanks to Ryan Larson and James Delorey for the story tip.