Lawrence H. Summers is President Emeritus of Harvard University, and former Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy. In the past decade he served in a series of senior public policy positions, including Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2011 and Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, from 1999 to 2001. He is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University. He received a bachelor of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975 and after completing his dissertation, “An Asset-Price Approach to Capital Income Taxation,” he was awarded a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1982. He then went to Washington as a domestic policy economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
In 1983, he returned to Harvard as a professor of economics, and became one of the youngest individuals in recent history to be named as a tenured member of the University’s faculty. In 1987 Mr. Summers became the first social scientist ever to receive the annual Alan T. Waterman Award of the National Science Foundation (NSF), established by Congress to honor an exceptional young U.S. scientist or engineer whose work demonstrates originality, innovation, and a significant impact within one’s field. In 1993, Mr. Summers was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40. Mr. Summers took leave from Harvard in 1991 to return to Washington, this time as Vice President of Development Economics and Chief Economist of the World Bank.
In 1993, Mr. Summers was named as the nation’s Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. He had broad responsibility for assisting then Secretary Lloyd M. Bentsen in formulating and executing international economic policies. In 1995, then Secretary Robert E. Rubin AB '60 promoted Mr. Summers to the department’s number-two post, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, in which he played a central role in a broad array of economic, financial, and tax matters, both international and domestic. On July 2, 1999, the United States Senate confirmed Mr. Summers as Secretary of the Treasury. In that capacity, he served as the principal economic adviser to the President and as the chief financial officer of the U.S. government, presiding over a federal department comprising some two dozen distinct bureaus and offices, with a civilian workforce of nearly 150,000 employees. At the end of his term as Treasury Secretary, Mr. Summers was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Medal, the Treasury Department’s highest honor. After leaving the Treasury Department in January, Mr. Summers served as the Arthur Okun Distinguished Fellow in Economics, Globalization, and Governance at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
On July 1, 2001, Mr. Summers took office as the 27th president of Harvard University. During his tenure as Harvard’s President, Mr. Summers focused on laying the foundations for the University in the 21st century. His ambitious plans encompassed significant growth in the faculties, the further internationalization of the Harvard experience, expanded efforts in and enhanced commitment to the sciences, laying the ground work for Harvard’s future development of an expanded campus in Allston, and improved efforts to attract the strongest students, regardless of financial circumstance, with the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative. These initiatives were sustained by five years of successful fundraising and strong endowment returns, providing the University with unprecedented resources.
In 2002, Mr. Summers was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. In 2006, Mr. Summers served as one of five Co-Chairs to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
In 2009, Mr. Summers was appointed to serve as the Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama Administration. He returned to his position at Harvard in early 2011. As Director of the White House National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, Mr. Summers served as a key economic decision-maker in the Obama administration. The Economist magazine referred to the “Summers Doctrine” of massive active response to economic downturn combined with respect for markets in the basic allocation of resources as defining the recent approach to economic policy. Mr. Summers was the Chief White House Advisor to the President on the Development and Implementation of Economic Policy; he led the President’s daily economic briefing and was a frequent public spokesman for the Administration’s policies.
Additionally, Mr. Summers has spent time as a part time managing director of the D.E. Shaw Group, a member of the boards of the Brookings Institution, the Center on Global Development, the Institute for International Economics, the Global Fund for Children’s Vaccines, and the Partnership for Public Service. He holds membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bretton Woods Committee, the Council on Competitiveness, and the UNCTAD Panel of Eminent Persons.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 30, 1954, Mr. Summers spent most of his childhood in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, and was educated in the Lower Merion public schools. He and his wife Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard, reside in Brookline with their six children.