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University Board of Trustees Chair Steps Down

Alan M. Leventhal will be honored for his service today, September 18


After more than four years, Alan Leventhal has stepped down as chairman of the Board of Trustees. He was succeeded by Robert Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75), former board vice chairman. Leventhal will remain on the board. Photo by Fred Sway

Alan M. Leventhal, who guided the Boston University Board of Trustees toward greater openness and transparency, steered the institution through turbulence to the calm of a new era of financial stability, and oversaw the development of an ambitious strategic plan, stepped down as chair at the governing body’s annual meeting on September 17. The University will honor him for his nearly five years of outstanding service at a dinner on September 18.

Chair and CEO of Beacon Capital Partners, L.L.C., Leventhal assumed the trustee 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. Leventhal since 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 BU’s 10th president.

“More than any other person, Alan Leventhal was responsible for ushering in a new era of openness, transparency, and commitment to best practices in the governance of the University,” says Brown, who assumed the president’s office in September 2005. “He was exactly the right person to lead the board at a critical time in our history.”

Brown, with guidance from Leventhal, set in motion a strategic planning process aimed at establishing the institution’s priorities in the months and years to come. Unveiled in October 2007, the 10-year, $1.8-billion strategic plan devotes new resources to unlocking cross-college opportunities for undergraduates, improving the campus’s academic and residential facilities, and recruiting new faculty for the University’s largest college, all initiatives designed to elevate the nation’s fourth largest private university to preeminent status among institutions of higher learning.

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

Furthermore, external rating services have characterized Boston University’s operating performance as healthy and its market position strong, a direct result of the governance changes that are also expected to contribute to the institution’s sustained fiscal growth.

“Alan devoted more than 50 percent of his time to Boston University during the critical transitions in 2003 and 2004,” says Joseph P. Mercurio, BU’s executive vice president. “He was on campus meeting with faculty and staff members on a regular basis, and he was available 24 hours per day to President ad interim Aram Chobanian and the senior administration. Alan was the de facto leader of the University during a period of time when credibility was essential and stability could only have been achieved with a person of integrity and the highest ethical standards representing the administration and the trustees.”

Leventhal, who remains a trustee, says that 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.”

Leventhal founded Beacon Capital Partners in 1998, and 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, sister, daughters, and niece attended BU, and his father, Norman, received an honorary degree from the University in 2000.

In 2004, Leventhal and his wife, Sherry, 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.

Succeeding Leventhal as chairman is Robert Knox (CAS’74, GSM’75), an alum who had served as vice chair since 2004. Knox chaired the ad hoc implementation committee and oversaw the development and execution of new governance policies and practices. He 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,” says Knox. “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 is going to make my job a lot easier.”

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