President Mark Burstein

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Mark Burstein, president of Lawrence University since 2013, will leave the post at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, he announced Friday in a letter to the Lawrence community.

Burstein called his time at Lawrence the “greatest honor and pleasure of my professional life,” and said he made the difficult decision to leave for family reasons. He and his husband, David Calle, will return to the East Coast to be near their parents.

He is the 16th president in Lawrence’s history, which dates back to its founding in 1847. He has overseen notable changes over the past seven years, including significantly lowering student loan debt for graduating students through the Full Speed to Full Need initiative, fostering a more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded campus culture, and launching or enhancing curricular programs in, among other areas, data science, musical arts, neuroscience, and global studies. The University’s endowment has grown by 70% during his tenure thanks in part to the ambitious $220 million Be the Light! Campaign, which launched six years ago and is on track to reach its fund-raising goal before the campaign concludes in December.

Burstein is beginning his eighth and final year at Lawrence with the start of Fall Term on Monday. He said he will “serve as your president for this academic year with all of my focus and energy” before stepping away on June 30. 

“With the end of our strategic plan in sight and the completion of the Be the Light! Campaign this December, it seems like an appropriate juncture in the arc of the University to prepare for new leadership,” Burstein said in his message. “The pandemic has also made it difficult for David and me to keep connected to our parents during an important period in their lives.”

David C. Blowers ’82, chair of the Lawrence University Board of Trustees, praised Burstein for his “deft and compassionate leadership” and said his work over the past seven years has positioned Lawrence well to succeed amid the many challenges facing higher education in the coming years.

“During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded,” Blowers said in a message to the Lawrence community. “Thanks to his dedication and service, Lawrence is well positioned for the future.”

A national search for a new president will begin immediately, Blowers said. A Presidential Search Committee will be formed, with membership from trustees, alumni, faculty, students, and staff. A national search firm will be selected to assist with the search.

“We expect to select a search firm shortly and have every expectation that we will select a new president during the Winter Term,” Blowers said.

The Presidential Search Committee will launch a web page shortly to provide updates and solicit input from the Lawrence community.

“In these moments of transition, it is important to find time to celebrate our progress and imagine our future,” Blowers said. “I hope the entire University community will join us in both activities.”

While Burstein’s focus now is on launching the Fall Term during these unprecedented times, he said there will be plenty of opportunity for celebration and reflection as the year goes on.

“We have accomplished so much together: launching new curriculum and teaching methods; renewing campus infrastructure; and deepening our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity,” he said. “I have had the privilege of participating in the lives of smart and caring students. Our endowment has grown more than 70%, which has helped us make Lawrence more affordable and decreased the average debt of our graduates. Many talented faculty and staff have joined us with their energy, insights, and new ideas. You have welcomed David, Homer, and me into this beloved learning community with open arms. We have established friendships that will endure for the rest of our lives.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu