John G. Palfrey

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Leadership, Policy, and Communications
Scientific, Cultural, and Nonprofit Leadership

John G. Palfrey is President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies with assets of approximately $7 billion, and offices in Chicago, New Delhi, and Abuja, Nigeria. Prior to joining the Foundation in 2019, Palfrey served as Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover, the only school of its kind to maintain need-blind admissions. During his tenure from 2012 to 2019, the number of faculty members of color doubled, and the student body grew more diverse. He oversaw the creation of the Tang Institute at Andover, which seeks to reform and democratize excellent teaching and learning. Earlier, Palfrey was the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School, where he served from 2003 to 2011. In that role, he expanded the Library’s reach and services, finding innovative ways to use digital technologies to enhance the school’s scholarship and teaching. From 2002 to 2008, Palfrey served as Executive Director of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, which seeks to explore and understand cyberspace. He is founding board chair of the Digital Public Library of America, and is the former board chair of LRNG, a nonprofit launched and supported by MacArthur. Palfrey has published extensively on how young people learn in a digital era, as well as the effects of new technologies on society at large. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education. A revised and expanded version of his book Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, which he co-authored with Urs Gasser, was issued in 2016. He serves on the board of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy in 2021. He contributed an essay, “Design Choices for Libraries in the Digital-Plus Era,” to the Winter 2016 issue of Daedalus. Palfrey has taken part in two Academy events, the Forum on the Future of Higher Education on June 13, 2022, and Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education on May 7, 2019.

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