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 in Los Angeles, was on campus 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 almost exclusively without notes in measured, accented English, he frequently referred to students as “knowledge creators” throughout the day, emphasizing the need for students 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.

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 30th-ranked school by U.S. News and World Report this year, he was responsible for turning the college toward creating programs that used professors from a variety of different majors, building the university’s stable of faculty who are notable in their fields and raising the money to fund all of his initiatives.

Aoun said that 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.”

Aoun was chosen by the Northeastern Board of Trustees from a group of three candidates picked by a presidential search committee 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. They decided 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,”he said. “You want members of the community not to be awkward.” He said he will remain part of the history faculty at Northeastern, and may return to teach after some time has passed.”

Freeland, who repeatedly expressed his desire to see alumni take on a larger role in the university, said he believes Aoun will carry on with all the major goals Northeastern has been striving for, including co-op advancement, research quality and alumni outreach.

“We have many successful, affluent alumni

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