Vassar College Names Elizabeth Howe Bradley Eleventh President

JANUARY 11, 2017 - POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Elizabeth Howe Bradley, the Brady-Johnson Professor of Grand Strategy at Yale University and a visionary global health scholar, has been elected the eleventh president of Vassar College.

Over her more than 20 years at Yale, Bradley has garnered deep experience with residential college life as Head of Branford College, one of the university’s largest residential colleges for undergraduates, and broad leadership experience as the Director of Yale’s Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and as founder and Faculty Director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute.

A central focus of Bradley’s career has been improving health care delivery in the United States and through projects in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Her work, supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Clinton Foundation, has led to revolutionary innovations in the delivery of cardiovascular care, long-term and end-of-life care, and health care management. Bradley has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and three books, including the acclaimed The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More Is Getting Us Less.

William Plapinger, Chair of the Vassar Board of Trustees, said, “Elizabeth Bradley has shown extraordinary leadership in all aspects of her remarkably broad career, combining intellectual commitment and rigor with vision, energy, and administrative talent. Across the varied areas of her career, she has been committed to bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to develop creative solutions to change people’s lives for the better. There could be nothing more resonant with our mission at Vassar College. I am confident Vassar will be made a better place by having Elizabeth Bradley as its eleventh President.”

Bradley was elected unanimously by the Vassar College Board of Trustees on January 10. She will succeed Catharine Hill, who stepped down in August 2016 after ten years as president. Since that time, Jonathan Chenette, Dean of the Faculty, has served as Interim President. Bradley’s term will begin July 1, 2017. Her selection comes after eight months of a national search by the college’s Presidential Search Committee of trustees, faculty, and students. Bradley also will hold a joint appointment as Professor of Political Science and Professor of Science, Technology, and Society.

“I am thrilled to have been elected the eleventh president of Vassar College. This is a critical time for leadership in liberal arts education, with many complex issues facing our campuses, our nation, and our world. With its strong intellectual foundation and its legacy of making a difference through action, Vassar serves as a model of high-quality, accessible, and innovative higher education. Working with students here in the U.S. and globally, I have seen how access to higher education changes lives, and it makes me even more committed to making certain we maintain Vassar as a diverse and inclusive community. I look forward to being part of the continued progress of this remarkable institution,” said Bradley.

Yale University President Peter Salovey said, “From her arrival on our campus, Professor Bradley has been a champion for innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration. She has enriched immeasurably the life of our campus community and will be missed as a visionary researcher, beloved teacher, wise mentor, trusted leader, and invaluable colleague.”

Since the beginning of 2016, Bradley has been the Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale, a university-wide, interdisciplinary program primarily for undergraduates, whose goal is to train emerging leaders. The program, which employs a comprehensive approach to achieving large ends with limited means, examines disciplines such as history, political science, and classical literature as context to address a wide range of current-day challenges, including security, economic inequality, global health, and climate change.

In her role as Head of Branford College, Bradley has been responsible for the intellectual and social life of the college. She and her family have lived on campus with 450 undergraduates, developing programs to bring faculty and visiting scholars to the college and fostering its community. Bradley has served on multiple university-wide committees pertaining to student life.

Highly regarded for her international work as founder and Faculty Director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute, which operates education and research programs in China, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda, and South Africa, Bradley has led teams that contributed to transforming Ethiopia’s health care system, enhancing the quality of hospital management and availability of primary care. Since 2009, Bradley and the Global Health Leadership Institute have provided leadership and management education that empowers low-income communities and countries to improve health outcomes.

Bradley with her family, left to right: Kate, John, Tim, Alice

Prior to her work at Yale, Bradley was a hospital administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she helped lead the first generation of quality improvement efforts as part of the National Demonstration in Quality Improvement in Health Care, the inspiration for much of her subsequent research.

Bradley grew up in New Britain, Connecticut. She focused on economics and art history as an undergraduate, graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1984. She earned an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1986, and a PhD in Health Policy and Health Economics from Yale University in 1996.

Bradley and her spouse, John Bradley, have three children, ages 24, 21, and 17. John has focused his career on urban community-building. He will assume the position of Executive Director of the Vassar College Urban Education Initiative beginning July 1.  

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

About Elizabeth Bradley

  • "This is an exciting new chapter for Vassar. At this critical time for liberal arts education, Betsy will bring vitality, leadership, vision, and a deep commitment to scholarship, teaching, and community. Having worked closely with her on a range of programs at Yale, as well as on broader global health programs, I am confident that her experience and values are remarkably well-suited for what Vassar needs today and in the future; she will help Vassar best respond and contribute to the challenges of our rapidly changing nation and world. Back in 1940, my mother, Beatrix McCleary, was the first African-American to be openly admitted to Vassar. Vassar is a very different place today, but I know my mother would take pride and comfort knowing of Betsy’s determination to ensure that Vassar is a model for high-quality, affordable education, a campus community that values diversity and unity, and a place where students and faculty are empowered to take on the most pressing intellectual and social problems of our time."

    Peggy Hamburg
    Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Science; Former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; daughter of Beatrix (McCleary) Hamburg ’44, the first African-American openly admitted to Vassar College

  • “I have known Betsy for almost a decade and seen the impact of her dedication. She is a hard worker and never gives up. She finds a way through obstacles, and her style of leadership is inclusive and produces results.”

    Kesete Admasu
    former Minister of Health in Ethiopia

  • "As a parent of college-age children, I have seen Dr. Bradley create communities that feel healthy and loved. She is one of a kind, someone who inspires others and enjoys life. She is also a gifted writer with a voice that provokes novel insights."

    Arianna Huffington
    founder, The Huffington Post

  • "Dr. Bradley is a wonderful blend of the academic and the practical. She has led the field in global health management research and she is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and jump in to critical, real-world problems. She gets things done. Dr. Bradley is special, and deserves this special opportunity."

    Dana Hovig
    Director of Integrated Health Delivery, Global Development and Global Health, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

  • “Words can't describe Betsy’s continued support and help to our country and other developing countries, but we can use this: I have seen Betsy transform organizations with her leadership. She is truly a grand strategist in every positive sense of the term – achieving large ends with limited means through collaboration and authentic engagement with country and community public health leadership. We have known each other for more than a decade of enormous development in Ethiopia, and I am proud of the health systems improvement we have made in that time. Betsy’s work and energy have been critical elements in our improved hospital management throughout the country.”

    Tedros Adhanom
    Candidate for Director-General of the World Health Organizations, former Minister of Health, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia

  • Betsy Bradley for as long as I've known her has been a rising star. Through her teaching and research in the Yale School of Public Health, her management of the Global Health Leadership Initiative, her energetic success as head of Branford College, and most recently through her directorship of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, Betsy has shown the capacity to take on new initiatives, master diverse fields, organize imaginatively, lead collaboratively, and especially to think creatively about how the humanities and the professions can connect in ways beneficial to both. We in the Grand Strategy Program -- which she fundamentally reshaped -- always knew she'd be president of something someday. We're glad it's Vassar, for the place and the person are perfectly matched. We'll miss her for sure, but we know that this next step makes great sense. We're honored to have had her with us.

    John Lewis Gaddis
    Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History and Founding Director, Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program, Yale University

  • “What a wonderful choice for Vassar! At Yale Elizabeth Bradley has been a leader in research on global health, a strong and creative teacher and a highly regarded and beloved head of a residential college, widely respected for her good judgment, sense of fairness, and full engagement in community life. She is the perfect choice to lead Vassar through the challenges of the 21st century.”

    Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
    former Chief Justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court; Senior Fellow, Yale Corporation (chair, board of trustees) (retired, June 30, 2016)