USC dean to be NU president

USC dean to be NU president

By Stephen Babcock and Hailey Heinz

Touting his academic ingenuity and record of fundraising prowess, the university’s board of trustees announced Thursday that Joseph Aoun will be the seventh president of Northeastern University.

Aoun (pronounced Ah-oon), 53, dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, was on campus last week to speak with members of the university community.

He emphasized the “momentum” Northeastern has built in the past years, describing it as a “precious commodity that other university communities try to have.”

“The world has to listen, and the world has to learn from us,” he said during a press conference. “Northeastern was very attractive to me because it is a school that has shaped its own destiny. The traditional dichotomy between study and practice is not working anymore.”

Speaking in measured, accented English – almost exclusively without notes – Aoun frequently referred to students as “knowledge creators,” emphasizing the need for them to make contributions at the top of their fields while still undergraduates.

“You rejected this dichotomy,” he told students, faculty and administrators assembled in the Curry Student Center for a welcome ceremony on Thursday.

A native of Lebanon who has been at USC since receiving his doctorate in 1981, Aoun is a noted scholar of theoretical linguistics who entered the USC administration at the beginning of the 1990s. As dean of the largest college in the university, ranked 30th-ranked by U.S. News and World Report this year, Aoun was responsible for turning the college toward creating programs that used professors from a variety of different majors, building the university’s number of faculty who are notable in their fields and raising the money to fund all of his initiatives.

Aoun said while his tenure will begin in a “listening mode,” he brings a set of fundamental values to the university about innovation in education.

“I have principles I believe in and concepts that I espouse,” he said. “If some of them do not fit, let me know. It doesn’t mean that I am convinced easily, but I have a lot to learn from you.”

The Northeastern Board of Trustees chose Aoun from a group of three candidates picked by a presidential search committee, which was assembled in the fall of last year. The search committee, with the help of a consultant based in Washington, D.C., identified and interviewed potential candidates for most of this year, deciding on Aoun in early May.

Members of the board interviewed Thursday said he was a candidate with striking personal warmth and a focus on academics that Northeastern needs after a decade of growth of the physical campus and the university’s visibility in society-at-large.

“He’s fun to be with,” said Neal Finnegan, chairman of the board of trustees. “I have yet to find a subject he can’t converse on. He’s been to all parts of the world, and has lots of contacts with key people.”

Handing over office was President Richard Freeland, ending his decade-long run as president.

“I think it’s very important to kind of get out of the way,” President Freeland said. “You want members of the community not to be awkward.”

A history professor, Freeland said he will remain part of the history faculty at Northeastern, and plans to teach at the Harvard School of Education before making his return to Northeastern.

As someone who has repeatedly expressed his desire to see alumni take on a larger role in the university, Freeland said he is confident that Aoun will carry on with the major goals the university has been striving for, including co-op advancement, improving the quality of research and ongoing efforts for alumni outreach.

“We have many successful, affluent alumni

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