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Richard Freeland

Professor of History and Higher Education, Northeastern University

Richard M. Freeland was president of Northeastern University from 1996 to 2006. He also served as the Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts from 2008 until 2015. He is currently a part-time lecturer in higher education and history at Northeastern.

Freeland has spent his entire academic career in urban higher education. He acted as assistant to the president of the University of Massachusetts in 1970 and, for the next 22 years, was associated with UMass-Boston, serving consecutively as assistant to the chancellor, director of the Office of Educational Planning, founding dean of the College of Professional Studies and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1992, Freeland became vice chancellor for academic affairs at the City University of New York, the country's largest urban system of public higher education. In addition to his role as vice chancellor, Freeland served as president of the CUNY Research Foundation, managing grants and contracts totaling approximately $150 million annually.

An American historian, Freeland is the author of two books, "Academia's Golden Age," a post-World War II history of universities in Massachusetts, published in 1992, and "The Truman Doctrine and the Origins of McCarthyism," published in 1972. He has received research support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation's scholar in residence in Bellagio, Italy. He has been a visiting scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a visitor at the Harvard Business School.

Freeland has served as vice-chair of the Board of Trustees for the Boston Plan for Excellence and as a director of the American Council on Education, the Boston Museum Project, the Boston Private Industry Council, Globe Newspaper Corporation (Boston Globe), Jobs for Massachusetts. He has served as a Governing Board member of the John Adams Innovation Institute (Mass Technology Collaborative) and on the Board of Trustees of WGBH since 1996. He has received honorary degrees from Amherst College and from the American College of Greece.

Born and raised in Mountain Lakes, N.J., Freeland received a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Amherst College in 1963 and a doctorate in American Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. From 1963 to 1964, he studied at the University of Bristol, England, on an Amherst Memorial Fellowship.


  • –present
    Professor of History and Higher Education, Northeastern University