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Tufts University names Johns Hopkins University provost as its next president

Sunil Kumar will be the first president of color in Tufts’ 170-year history

Sunil Kumar, the 14th president of Tufts University.Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

Tufts University has named Sunil Kumar, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University, as its next president.

In announcing the move Thursday, the university said Kumar brings “a lifelong commitment to excellence in higher education and an exceptionally strong record as a leader, teacher, and colleague.”

Kumar said he is honored and humbled to take on the role as the university’s next leader, and is looking forward to acquainting himself with the Tufts’ community in coming months.

“I plan to walk the hallways, meet with lots of people, learn more about the institution, and then formulate a plan for it,” Kumar said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “I think a thoughtful approach based on listening will work best.”


Kumar will replace Anthony Monaco, who announced his retirement in February. Monaco is leaving after 12 years as the school’s leader, and Kumar will step into the position on July 1, according to a Tufts Now report.

Kumar oversaw nine of Johns Hopkins’ schools and focused on increasing interdisciplinary research and education. He valued diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Hopkins, Tufts said in a statement. Kumar holds a doctorate in electrical engineering and previously served as the dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“He will be an outstanding successor to President Monaco, who has strengthened Tufts in so many ways,” said Peter Dolan, chair of Tufts’ Board of Trustees and its presidential search committee.

As Tuft’s first president of color, Kumar said making the university more inclusive and accessible for students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds is a top priority. He said he plans to increase access to Tufts by making tuition more affordable.

“I take my responsibility as the first person of color in [Tuft’s] 170-year history to hold this position very seriously,” he said. “I know the value of having a diverse student body and faculty, and I see it as a indispensable value for the institution.”


The change in leadership at Tufts is part of a wave of turnover among Massachusetts college presidents. Harvard, Boston University, and MIT are among the schools to undergo leadership changes.

Student mental health will remain a top priority, Kumar said in the phone interview. As the university’s next president, Kumar said he will build on Monaco’s initiatives, which include mental health-focused peer education, counseling services, and university-wide neuropsychology testing, according to an e-mail statement to the Globe.

“I think we should provide as much support in all the forms that our students will find most useful to them as especially post-pandemic,” Kumar said.

Members of the Tufts community expressed confidence in the selection of Kumar as the university’s 14th president.

“I was very impressed with Dr. Kumar’s leadership style,” said Bree Aldridge, member of the search committee and associate professor of molecular biology and microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine, in the Tufts statement. “His work demonstrates his commitment to the execution of transformative ideas. I am so excited that he is joining our community and look forward to working with him in the coming years.”

Kumar said Tufts University is an “outstanding institution,” and he hopes to make it even better as president of the next generation of Tuft’s movers and shakers.

“We want to educate our students to be future leaders,” he said. “I want to make sure that opportunities are available to as many people as possible as both a driver of societal improvement, but even more importantly, as a way to best educate our future leaders from Tufts University.”


Katie Mogg can be reached at katie.mogg@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @j0urnalistkatie