BU Appoints Kenneth Freeman Interim University President as Search Continues
Former Questrom dean brings deep experience from both business and academia to the temporary leadership role, which he’ll assume August 1
In his 13 years at Boston University, Kenneth Freeman has filled a number of roles: respected professor, transformative dean, valued mentor, forward-thinking academic innovator, and a skilled and rock-steady vice president during a period of crisis. And now he will hold—on an interim basis—the most important title of all: BU president.
With President Robert A. Brown due to step down on July 31, and the search for BU’s 11th president still ongoing, BU’s Board of Trustees announced on Wednesday that Freeman, dean emeritus and professor of the practice at Questrom School of Business, and University vice president and associate provost, has been appointed as interim president starting August 1 until a permanent replacement for Brown is hired. As BU’s acting leader, Freeman will hold all the powers of the president’s office, and be entrusted to provide leadership to deans, faculty, students, and all key stakeholders, while continuing the initiatives already in process that are core to BU’s 2030 Strategic Plan.
Ahmass Fakahany (Questrom’79), chairman of BU’s Board of Trustees, says the Presidential Search Committee and the board are reviewing candidates and taking the proper time to secure the leader most uniquely suited to lead BU through this next chapter of transformational change and growth.
“It is a testament to the institution that our achievements and momentum have attracted several excellent, highly qualified candidates,” Fakahany says.
He adds that the committee and trustees are confidently on that road to identifying BU’s next president. “To provide the time needed to continue the process in a thoughtful, unhurried, and strategic way, we have decided to appoint an interim president to assume that role when Bob Brown steps down,” he says. “We are delighted we had the ideal person in place to be that bridge.”
“I am both honored and humbled to help BU through this transitional period,” Freeman told BU Today. “It’s a big and complicated job, and the real strength of BU is its people—its faculty, staff, students, and alumni—and I will do my very best to sustain and build upon Bob Brown’s legacy.”
Freeman says that even though his role will be as acting president, the world is moving much too fast for the University to sit still until a permanent president is hired. “The world is constantly changing,” he notes. “My intent is not to be a caretaker, but to be a value creator. I don’t think the new president would want me and the University to sit still.”
My intent is not to be a caretaker, but to be a value creator. I don’t think the new president would want me and the University to sit still.
The role is a natural fit for Freeman, who brings a wealth of business and academic credentials to the role. After four decades working in private industry, including executive posts at Corning Incorporated, CEO of Quest Diagnostics, and a partner of the senior leadership team at the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Freeman was hired at BU in 2010 as dean of Questrom and the Allen Questrom Professor. During his eight years at Questrom, he transformed the undergraduate and graduate curricula, putting an emphasis on ethics and global citizenship, health and life sciences, digital technology, and sustainability. He also secured the $50 million gift that led to the business school’s current name in 2015.
After his period leading Questrom, in 2018 Freeman stepped into a range of enterprise leadership roles at the University to help tackle complicated and pressing issues. His background as a skilled administrator, executive, and academic who understands how to lead large, complex organizations became especially valuable to Brown during the COVID-19 pandemic, when BU was forced into a remote work environment almost overnight. Freeman oversaw the University’s human resources function temporarily as it helped employees navigate an uncertain period.
Next, he was tapped to help forge BU’s online education strategy. He was appointed interim vice president and associate provost for Online Programs At-Scale in 2021 and was a key driver of the University’s new online program unit, BU Virtual, an important part of the 2030 Strategic Plan.
A prolific and sought-after public speaker and writer, Freeman coauthored Reimagining Business Education: Insights and Actions from the Business Education Jam, published in 2016. During his private sector experience, he was twice recognized as one of the 100 best-performing CEOs in the world. He was also chairman of the board of trustees for nine years during nearly two decades of service to his alma mater, Bucknell University, which he attended before attending Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA.