Columbia University names economist Nemat Shafik as first woman president

A person walks through campus at Columbia University in New York City, where classes on Monday and Tuesday were suspended because someone on the campus was under quarantine from exposure to the coronavirus

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Columbia University named former Bank of England Deputy Governor and current London School of Economics President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik as its president, marking the first time a woman has been named to lead the renowned American educational institution.

Shafik, an economist whose career has focused on public policy and academia, will become the twentieth president of Columbia University on July 1, the institution said in a statement on Wednesday.

Shafik began her career at the World Bank, becoming its youngest-ever vice president at the age of 36. She later also served as deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund and as top official in the UK’s Department for International Development.

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Shafik’s appointment comes after other educational institutions have also recently appointed women to head top universities, including Harvard University, which last month named Claudine Gay as its new president. Gay became the first Black woman to hold the top job at Harvard.

Jonathan Lavine, chair of the Columbia Board of Trustees, called Shafik, 60, “the perfect candidate”.

What set Shafik apart as a candidate “is her unshakable confidence in the vital role institutions of higher education can and must play in solving the world’s most complex problems,” Lavine added.

Shafik was born in Alexandria, Egypt, Columbia University said in its statement on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Aurora Ellis)