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Trustees’ Leventhal Leaves His Mark

Board chairman to step down, citing selection of Brown as highlight


After four years, Alan Leventhal has decided to step down as chairman of the Board of Trustees. He will be succeeded in September by Robert Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75), board vice chairman. Leventhal will remain on the board. Photo by Fred Sway

After four years of leadership, Alan Leventhal has left an indelible mark on the Boston University Board of Trustees, guiding the board toward greater openness and transparency and helping steer the University to the calmer waters of a new era. The Boston real estate developer, who will step down as chairman in September, has overseen changes in the board’s governance structure, a reduction in the number of trustee committees, the creation of a board of overseers, and the hiring of Robert A. Brown as the 10th president of the University.

Leventhal is leaving, he says, because after four years in office he felt the time was right to turn over the reins. He will remain a trustee. Leventhal assumed the chairmanship in the wake of a divisive 2003 presidential search that resulted in the resignations of several board members and saw the president-elect removed before he ever took office.

Brown says the University has been “exceedingly fortunate” to have had Leventhal’s outstanding leadership as chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Alan’s vision, integrity, and sense of inclusiveness,” says Brown, “have been key to the transformation in governance of our institution.”

Todd Klipp, BU’s general counsel and Board of Trustees secretary, concurs. “More than any other person,” he says, “Alan Leventhal was responsible for ushering in a new era of openness, transparency, and commitment to best practices in the governance of the University. He was exactly the right person to lead the board at a critical time in the University’s history.”

Leventhal says that more than four years ago, when he and others saw both a need and an opportunity to improve the governance of the University, they stepped forward. “I was in a position on the ad hoc governance committee and ultimately in chairing the board to play a role,” he says. “We imposed term limits for the first time, and that resulted in a significant change in the membership of the board. More than 25 percent of the board turned over immediately, and over 50 percent has turned over in the last four years. Several new people have come in, but we have also been fortunate to have former board members who had served for many years join our newly established board of overseers.”

The chairman and CEO of Beacon Capital Partners, which he founded in 1998, Leventhal has served as president and CEO of Beacon Properties, one of the largest real estate investment trusts in the United States. He joined its predecessor, the Beacon Companies, in 1976. He is also a trustee of Northwestern University, from which he received a bachelor of arts in economics.

Leventhal is a member of the board of overseers of the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College, where he earned an M.B.A. He is also an overseer of the New England Aquarium and of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Leventhal’s mother, his sister, his daughter, and his niece attended BU, and his father, Norman, received an honorary degree from the University in 2000.

“Alan has done a superb job as chairman of the board,” says President Emeritus Aram Chobanian (Hon.’06), the John I. Sandson Distinguished Professor of Health Sciences at the School of Medicine and BU’s ninth president. “He was a key figure in changing the governance structure of the board, and he brought to the board a number of excellent new members. I found during my tenure in the president’s office that he was very thoughtful and supportive of the efforts of the administration. He also set a high tone for excellence and board involvement.”

In 2004, Leventhal and his wife, Sherry Leventhal, donated $5 million to the University, to serve as the seed money for the $15 million Fund for Leadership and Innovation, available for allocation to any BU school, college, program, or center — whether to support faculty hires or for scholarships, research, or capital expenditures such as building construction and renovation.

Leventhal will be succeeded as chairman by Robert Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75), who has served as vice chairman since 2004. Knox chaired the ad hoc implementation committee and oversaw the development and execution of new governance policies and practices. Knox is the senior managing director of Cornerstone Equity Investors, L.L.C., a New York–based private equity firm he cofounded in 1984.

“Alan has been an absolutely superb chairman and leader of the board,” Knox says. “Under his leadership, we came through a major transition and recruited Robert Brown as BU’s 10th president. I’m so appreciative of his dedication to the University. The outstanding work he has done as chairman is going to make my job a lot easier.”

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.

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