Northwestern announces Peter Barris as new Board of Trustees chair


Photo courtesy of Northwestern Now

Peter Barris, who chairs venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates Inc., will start his new position Sept. 1.

Yiming Fu, Managing Editor

Peter Barris (McCormick ’74) was elected to serve as the next chair of the Northwestern Board of Trustees.

Barris, who chairs venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates Inc., will start his new position Sept. 1. 

Barris has served on the board since 2001. He chaired the Presidential Search Committee and created the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee, which helped establish The Garage, to support startups at NU. 

“I am proud of how far we have come as a university,” Barris said in a Wednesday news release. “I am equally energized by how far we have the potential to go as an institution, and I greatly look forward to working with incoming President Rebecca Blank to realize Northwestern’s next chapter.”

A frequent donor to the school, Barris has spearheaded initiatives to hire additional faculty in computer science and endowed scholarships for Bienen music students and for NU students from Chicago Public Schools. According to the news release, his firm aimed to advance diversity by reforming hiring practices. 

Barris will succeed J. Landis Martin, who has served as chair since 2017. In an April Faculty Senate meeting, Martin said he was most proud of the University’s rise in national rankings, top-tier teaching and research. 

At the April meeting, Faculty Senate member and Feinberg Prof. Lois Hedman said the majority of the board has a business background, which prevents it from truly representing academics. Faculty Senate member and physics Prof. Luis Amaral, who has contributed to The Daily, also said the board is unrepresentative of NU’s student body. Amaral also criticized the board at the meeting for ramping up research during the COVID-19 pandemic instead of prioritizing student health. 

Martin responded that many Board of Trustees members have worked on other University boards and therefore contribute numerous perspectives. He said the exclusion of faculty from the Board of Trustees maintains a separation of powers, adding that there’s no guarantee more representation on the board would mitigate mistakes. However, he said, it could be productive to consider increasing the board’s academic representation. 

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