Kim ’82 picked as Dartmouth president

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jim Yong Kim ’82, a medical doctor and global health leader who graduated from Brown with a degree in human biology, has been elected to become the 17th president of Dartmouth, the college’s board of trustees announced Monday. Kim will begin his term July 1, succeeding longtime president James Wright.

Kim, who was born in Seoul and moved to Iowa at age five, will become the first Asian-American president of an Ivy League institution and just the second-ever person of color, after Ruth Simmons, to hold such a post.

“I feel so proud to follow in Ruth’s footsteps,” he said in a telephone interview Monday. “She inspired me to think that I can do this job.”

A leader in the field of public health, Kim garnered international recognition as a senior official at the World Health Organization for working to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. He has also served as chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine in 2004.

As medical students, he and Paul Farmer, now a renowned anthropologist and physician, co-founded the non-profit organization Partners in Health, which today supports health programs in poor communities in Haiti, Peru, Rwanda and the United States, among other countries.

Kim’s numerous awards and recognitions include a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2003. He was included in a list of America’s 25 “Best Leaders” by US News and World Report in 2005, and was chosen as one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006.

Kim is also currently the chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Director of the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.

At Brown, Kim said he played volleyball and was involved at the Third World Center and the Asian Students Association.

“I really know from being a Brown student what an amazing impact your undergrad experience can have on you,” he said.

After earning his A.B. from Brown and his M.D. at Harvard Medical School, Kim went on to get a Ph.D. from Harvard in anthropology.

The Dartmouth search committee, made up of alumni, students and faculty, “spent nearly a year soliciting input” from the community and looking at candidates, 300 of which were “explicitly considered,” according to a Dartmouth press release.

Wright announced in February last year his intention to resign from the top position after 11 years, and Kim was elected in a special meeting of the trustees on Feb. 20.

“Jim follows in the long tradition of Dartmouth presidents who have made a significant mark both in higher education and on the world stage,” Charles Haldeman, Jr., the chairman of the board of trustees, said in the statement, “and we are confident he is the ideal person to lead the College in today’s rapidly changing environment.”

Simmons, the first non-white president in the Ivy League, praised Kim in the same press release. “His powerful personal story inspires; his past achievements illuminate the power of innovative thinking to find solutions to the most intractable problems; and his strong moral leadership matches the highest aims of university life.”

Kim said he has always taken an active approach to changing the world. Rather than simply advocating for change, “I’ve tried to tackle those problems directly,” he said.

In a welcome change from years of throwing himself headlong at major problems in the world, Kim said his goal now is to give a “great group of young people the tools they need to change the world.”

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