Tessier-Lavigne joins panel of university presidents in Washington

Economic Club
President Marc Tessier-Lavigne joined the presidents of Ohio State and Harvard in a recent talk at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. (Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian, The Economic Club of Washington D.C.)

President MARC TESSIER-LAVIGNE joined fellow university presidents this week at a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., addressing major issues facing American higher education.

Tessier-Lavigne, Harvard President DREW GILPIN FAUST and Ohio State University President and Stanford alumnus MICHAEL DRAKE appeared before the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. A video recording of the conversation is available on the club’s website.

The trio of university leaders addressed a wide range of issues including the accessibility and affordability of a college education, the role of university endowments, trends in student alcohol use and the importance of keeping American universities open to talented students from countries around the world.

Tessier-Lavigne noted the importance of federal funding support for university research, amid proposals from the federal administration for cuts. He said there historically has been bipartisan support for federal research funding and that it is critical as the country faces challenges such as growing numbers of people with Alzheimer’s.

“Currently 5 million people in our country are afflicted with Alzheimer’s; by 2050 it’s predicted to be 13 million people,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “Think of the human suffering for them and their families – and the economic costs are predicted to balloon. We desperately need therapies and cures, and that will only come through research.”

The leaders addressed the importance of preventive education efforts as universities work to eradicate sexual violence in their campus communities. “It’s sort of shocking that we didn’t address this until the late 2000s – 2009, 2010 – when nationally people started to shine a spotlight on the issue on college campuses,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “The single most important thing is prevention. Our students are some of our best partners.”

Asked why he chose to become a university president, Tessier-Lavigne said it wasn’t something he had planned years in advance – but that it was a product of career experiences that led him to realize the value not only in pursuing his own scientific work, but in fostering and supporting the academic work of others.

“I learned that I loved working with people and helping them be all that they can be, and more,” he said. “I think at some point along the way we [university presidents] each discover that that is as exciting and fulfilling as one’s own personal scholarship.”

Tessier-Lavigne’s visit was part of a Washington trip focused on meetings with federal elected officials, a Stanford Alumni Association event with alums in the Washington area and a visit to the Bing Stanford in Washington Program.