Press Release
May 2, 2024

Announcing Laurie L. Patton as the Next President of the Academy


The American Academy of Arts & Sciences today announced that Laurie L. Patton, currently the President of Middlebury College, has been named the next President of the Academy. Patton is a distinguished scholar of religion, an author or editor of ten books, a published poet, and a highly accomplished college and university leader. She will begin as the Academy’s President in January 2025.

In announcing the appointment on behalf of the Academy’s Board of Directors, Goodwin Liu (Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court), Chair of the Board and Chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said, “Laurie Patton embodies both scholarship and leadership at the highest levels, and we are thrilled that she will lead the Academy as our next president. She brings tremendous substance, vision, warmth, and energy to the Academy’s work of honoring excellence and advancing the common good.”   

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who anticipated that the young republic would need to promote learning and share knowledge to succeed. The Academy honors and celebrates excellence by electing members; it pursues its mission to advance the common good by bringing them together across disciplines and divides to address major challenges facing our country and the world. 

While the Academy has changed greatly since 1780, its members and its work are still connected to a charter founded on ideals that celebrate the life of the mind, the importance of knowledge, and the belief that the arts and sciences are “necessary to the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The Academy’s areas of work now include the arts, democracy, education, global affairs, the humanities, and science. 

Patton was elected a member of the Academy in 2018 and recognized both in her academic field of religion and for her leadership in education. 

Laurie L. Patton Profile

On being named President of the Academy, Patton said, “Throughout my professional life, I have valued tackling complex issues, building resilient communities, and pursuing change which at the same time honors our deepest democratic values. Until now, I have undertaken this work largely with students, faculty, and staff in higher education. At the Academy, I can continue this work with thought leaders who share a commitment to the common good: scholars, artists, scientists, writers, and innovators in business, government, and philanthropy. Becoming the next president of the Academy is both an exciting continuation and an enormous opportunity.” 

Patton follows David W. Oxtoby as President of the Academy. Oxtoby announced his decision to step down in October 2023. During his more than five years as president, Oxtoby launched ambitious projects, diversified the Academy’s membership, increased the Academy’s impact, engaged members in new ways during Covid, and successfully led a capital campaign.

“With Laurie’s accomplishments as a campus leader, her extensive international scholarship, and her own artistic endeavors as a poet, she is uniquely well-suited to lead the Academy with its broad range of members and work,” said Oxtoby, who is a chemist by training and served as President of Pomona College prior to becoming President of the Academy. “Laurie will be a champion for expertise, knowledge, and democracy itself.”

“The Board, the Academy, and its members are grateful for David’s leadership and many accomplishments over the past five-plus years,” said Justice Liu. “Thanks to his stewardship, the Academy is in a strong position, and we look forward to building on that strength with Laurie as our next president.”

Patton earned her BA from Harvard University in 1983 and her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1991. She began her teaching career at Bard College, where she was assistant professor of Asian religions from 1991 to 1996. From 1996 to 2011, Patton served on the faculty and administration at Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and the inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the Office of the Provost. 

Prior to beginning her presidency at Middlebury in 2015, Patton served as dean of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and as the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion. In addition, she served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion in 2011 and as president of the American Academy of Religion, made up of over nine thousand members, in 2019. 

Under Patton’s leadership, Middlebury adopted a new strategic framework, invested in student engagement and well-being, increased financial aid and first-generation access, developed a multifaceted conflict resolution program that spans the curriculum, created a leading renewable energy plan as a model for higher education, increased international activity, and launched a record-breaking fundraising campaign. 

She will complete her service to Middlebury in December 2024 and begin her presidency of the Academy in January 2025.

The Presidential Search Committee, chaired by Justice Liu, included Academy members Philip Bredesen, former Governor of Tennessee; Jonathan Holloway, President of Rutgers University; Cherry Murray, Professor of Physics and Deputy Director of Research at Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona; Deborah Rutter, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Shirley Tilghman, Professor Emerita of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs and President Emerita of Princeton University; and Pauline Yu, President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies.

Learn more about Laurie Patton here.

Learn more information about the Academy here.

Laurie Patton Signing the Book of Members at Induction 2108
Laurie Patton signing the Book of Members at her induction to the Academy in 2018.





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