After a nine-month search, and after consideration of more than 250 candidates, Rutgers has a new president. On April 11, Robert L. Barchi, a noted neurologist, administrative visionary, and adept fundraiser, was named the 20th president of the university. He is stepping down as the top executive of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and will begin his tenure at Rutgers on September 1.
Moments after the Board of Governors announced his appointment, Robert Barchi made his first public appearance before the Rutgers community. In remarks, he described a university that will have to create its own destiny at a time when higher education, particularly the place of the public research university within it, is undergoing seismic changes in how it is financed. Barchi wants more emphasis on funding research, particularly in the life sciences; on developing partnerships with business, as well as monetizing intellectual property, to bring economic benefit to Rutgers and the state it serves; and on offering novel educational programs. And Rutgers, he says, is uniquely poised to make its own way.
“In the past decade, Rutgers has continually raised the bar for academic excellence, research productivity, and intellectual quality and integrity. Folks are going to expect us to set the bar even higher as we establish our goals for the next five years,” said Barchi. “The great news is that this institution has the vision and strength, as well as the staff and faculty, not only to achieve these new stretch goals, but also to exceed them. And, working together as a community of scholars, that is exactly what we are going to do.”
He knows whereof he speaks. For more than 30 years, Barchi was affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. He began his academic career in 1972 as a member of its faculty, becoming the David Mahoney Professor of Neurological Sciences. His research laboratory was awarded more than 30 years of continuous peer-reviewed funding from the National Institutes of Health and other granting agencies. Barchi—known for his work on the structure and function of voltage-gated ion channels and on the role that these molecules play in human disease—has been recognized by many honorary and academic societies, including election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
In addition to his extensive teaching, research, and clinical work at Penn, he assumed academic leadership roles. Between 1983 and 1996, he was the director of the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences, an interdisciplinary, universitywide entity that he expanded to become the centerpiece of Penn’s emphasis on neuroscience. He also founded the Department of Neuroscience, serving as its first chair. Barchi became the provost of the university in 1999, charged with overseeing its 12 schools, athletic and academic programs, and students and faculty. During his five-year tenure as provost, he also oversaw the establishment of interdisciplinary educational and research institutes at Penn.
Most recently, Barchi has been the president of Thomas Jefferson University, a respected health sciences university, since 2004. During his leadership, the university expanded from three to six schools, enrollment increased 51 percent, endowed professorships and scholarships grew appreciably, fundraising revenue doubled, and the physical campus, located in central Philadelphia, was transformed. A Philadelphia native who was raised in Westfield, New Jersey, he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Georgetown University and his Ph.D. and M.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He is married to Francis Harper Barchi, M.B.E., Ph.D., a senior fellow in the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, where she investigates international research ethics and women’s autonomy in the developing world, among other interests. She has worked extensively in Botswana, Tanzania, and Guatemala.
“Robert Barchi combines the key qualifications that are necessary to serve as the next president of Rutgers: a successful tenure leading a highly regarded health sciences university; years of experience as the chief academic administrator of a world-class comprehensive research university; and a stellar reputation as a scientific researcher and an award-winning educator,” said Ralph Izzo RBS’02, chair of the Board of Governors, which relied on the Presidential Search Committee headed by Greg Brown LC’82 and Linda Stamato DC’62, GSNB’77, SMLR’77 to select and interview candidates before making recommendations. “We look forward to many years of outstanding leadership from Dr. Barchi as he builds on Rutgers University’s longstanding tradition of academic excellence.” •