Former Presidents

Learn about the Graduate Center's former presidents:

Former President REES

Founding Dean, 1961–68; Provost, 1968–69; President, 1969–72 (A.B., Hunter College, 1923; A.M., Columbia University, 1925; Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1931)

A distinguished mathematician and the first president of the Graduate Center, Dr. Rees was the architect of the consortial model that pools faculty talent throughout the CUNY system for its doctoral programs. Under her leadership, the Graduate Center became known as a major doctoral-degree-granting institution, expanding from four doctoral programs to twenty-seven. Dr. Rees began her collegiate teaching career at Hunter College in 1925, where she taught intermittently through 1961. During World War II Dr. Rees worked as executive assistant with the Applied Mathematics Panel in the Office of Scientific Research and Development. This panel of mathematicians worked with the military to resolve problems posed by various branches. Following the war, Dr. Rees was recruited by the Navy to head the scientific and mathematical research division of the Office of Naval Research; from 1952 to 1953 she served as its deputy science director. In 1961 Dr. Rees left Hunter College to serve as the first dean of graduate studies in CUNY’s newly established Graduate Center (then called the Graduate Division). Dr. Rees was appointed provost in 1968 and became the first president of the Graduate Center in 1969, a position she held until her retirement in 1972. Dr. Rees also served as the first woman president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The recipient of many honors and awards, Dr. Rees was conferred eighteen honorary degrees, the New York City Public Service Award for Professional Achievement, the City University of New York Chancellor's Medal, the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, and the President's Certificate of Merit for her important contributions during World War II.

Former President PROSHANSKY

Dean of Graduate Studies, 1968–70;
Provost, 1970–72; President, 1972–90
(B.S., City College, 1941; M.A., Columbia University, 1942; Ph.D., New York University, 1952)

An environmental psychologist, Dr. Proshansky was a pioneer in his field and instrumental in the establishment of a doctoral branch of study in environmental psychology at the Graduate Center. He was also a major contributor to the first definitive work in this subject, Environmental Psychology: Man and His Physical Setting (1970), and served a term as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Dr. Proshansky began his career at the Haskins Laboratories in Connecticut as a research psychologist. In 1952, upon earning a Ph.D. in social psychology at New York University, he was appointed to the Brooklyn College faculty as a lecturer in psychology. In 1963 Dr. Proshansky joined the Graduate Center’s doctoral faculty, becoming executive officer of the doctoral program in psychology in 1966, dean of graduate studies in 1968, provost in 1970, and president of the Graduate Center in 1972. During his eighteen-year tenure as president Dr. Proshansky helped the Graduate Center build a national reputation, attracting many prominent scholars from around the country.

Former President CAHN

Dean of Graduate Studies, 1983–84;
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, 1984–92; Acting President, Spring 1991 (B.A., Columbia College, 1963; Ph.D., Columbia University, 1966)

Currently serving as a professor of philosophy and urban education, Dr. Cahn teaches academic ethics at the Graduate Center, and has written, coauthored, or edited numerous books on philosophy. Having served as dean of graduate studies and provost, he was appointed acting president of the Graduate Center in Spring 1991 upon the death of President Proshansky. Dr. Cahn previously taught at Dartmouth College, Vassar College, the University of Rochester, New York University, and the University of Vermont, where from 1973 to 1980 he headed the department of philosophy. He was also active in foundation work, holding executive positions with the Exxon Education Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John Dewey Foundation.

Former President HOROWITZ

President, Fall 1991–June 2005
(B.A., Antioch College, 1954; M.A., Goucher College, 1954; Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1959)

A prominent child psychologist, Dr. Horowitz became president of the Graduate Center in September 1991 after her thirty-year tenure at the University of Kansas–Lawrence, where for thirteen years she was vice chancellor for research, graduate studies, and public service, and dean of the Graduate School. Specializing in developmental psychology, Dr. Horowitz has written widely on infant behavior, early childhood development, developmental theory, and early intervention. She has accumulated a long list of honors and awards for her research and her leadership roles in educational and civic organizations. Dr. Horowitz serves on the boards of, among other institutions, the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute, the Feminist Press, and the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. In 2004, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her awards include the American Psychological Association's Centennial Award for Sustained Contribution to the Science Directorate, a Commendation from the New York City Comptroller's Office, and the New York Women’s Agenda Star Award. Under President Horowitz’s leadership, the Graduate Center moved to a new campus in a redesigned landmark Fifth Avenue building and successfully conducted a $30 million capital campaign, exceeding that goal by almost $3 million. During President Emerita Horowitz’s tenure as university professor (2005–10) she served as Interim Jack F. Skirball Director of the Center for Jewish Studies.

Former President Bill_Kelly_web (1)

Provost and Senior Vice President, 1998-June 2005; President, July 2005-June 2013 (B.A., Princeton University, 1971; M.Phil, Cambridge University, 1975; Ph.D., Indiana University, 1976)
Prior to becoming President of the Graduate Center, Dr. Kelly served as the Graduate Center’s provost and senior vice president, a tenure that was marked by the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of internationally renowned scholars to the school’s faculty.

A distinguished American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Kelly is the author of Plotting America’s Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales. His essays and reviews have appeared in a broad range of publications including the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, and The American Scholar. He is the editor of the Random House edition of The Selected Works of Washington Irving and the Oxford University Press edition of The Pathfinder. He is currently at work on a book about John Jacob Astor.

Dr. Kelly graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1971, where he won the David Bowers Prize in American Studies. He was named Outstanding Graduate Student in English at Indiana University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1976. Dr. Kelly also holds a diploma in intellectual history from Cambridge University and in 1980 received a Fulbright Fellowship to France, where he subsequently became visiting professor at the University of Paris. He was also executive director of the CUNY/Paris Exchange Program and, in 2003, was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education in recognition of his contributions to Franco-American educational and cultural relations.

On the faculty of CUNY’s Queens College from 1976 to 1998, he was named Queens College’s Golden Key Honor Society Teacher of the Year in 1994. He was appointed concurrently to the faculty of the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in English in 1986 and served as the program’s executive officer from 1996 to 1998.

Dr. Kelly is the vice chairman of the CUNY Research Foundation and serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Former President crobinson_170

Provost and Senior Vice President, 2008-2013; President, 2013-2018 (A.B., Brown University, 1985; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1992)

A historian of the pre-modern Middle East, Professor Chase F. Robinson served as president of The Graduate Center from 2013 to 2018 and as provost from 2008 to 2013.
As president, Robinson deepened The Graduate Center’s commitment to advanced learning and education for the public good. With his leadership, The Graduate Center enhanced its reputation for excellence in scholarship and teaching. He ensured that The Graduate Center attracted record levels of philanthropic support and increased both its selectivity and its diversity. During his tenure, The Graduate Center acquired the Advanced Science Research Center, a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research facility that is the focus of CUNY's investment in the experimental sciences.
As Graduate Center provost, Robinson led the institution's first comprehensive planning process. He secured major funding to enhance faculty support, helped establish The Graduate Center at the forefront of the digital evolution within higher education, expanded the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, and launched the Advanced Research Collaborative, the Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences, and the CUNY Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context. During his tenure, The Graduate Center made major investments in financial aid and hired more than two dozen scholar-teachers of national and international standing, including its first Nobel laureate.
A scholar of Islamic history and culture, Robinson has authored or edited nine books and more than 40 articles that span the geographical and chronological breadth of the pre- and early-modern Islamic Middle East. They include A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra (2001); Texts, Documents and Artefacts: Islamic Studies in Honour of D.S. Richards (2003); and the first volume of The New Cambridge History of Islam (2010). A recent book, Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives: The First 1,000 Years (2016), was translated into Arabic and Portuguese. His most recent work is The Works of Ibn Wadih al-Ya’qubi: An English Translation (2017), a co-edited, three-volume set of translations of some of the earliest works of history and geography in Arabic. He is the general editor of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization, a member of the editorial board of Past & Present, and conducts research in several European and Middle Eastern languages.
Robinson received an A.B. (Honors) from Brown University, and studied at the American University in Cairo, the University of Cairo, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1992, he earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. In 1993, he joined the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Wolfson College, Oxford, where he taught for 14 years. From 1999 to 2000, he was a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and in 2005 he received a two-year British Academy Research Readership. As chairman of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies at Oxford, he put in place the department’s first academic plan and forged new relationships with international donors and academic institutions in the Middle East and Asia.

Former President Joy-Connolly_170x255

Provost and Senior Vice President: 2016-2018; Interim President: 2018-2019 (A.B., Classics, Princeton University 1991; Ph.D., Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania)

Joy Connolly served as interim president of The Graduate Center from 2018 until 2019 and as provost between 2016 and 2018. Connolly will continue her role as a distinguished professor in The Graduate Center’s doctoral program in classics.

During Connolly’s service as interim president, The Graduate Center launched the PublicsLab, which builds on an ambitious initiative she spearheaded while provost to transform doctoral education for the public good. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the PublicsLab enhances and expands public engagement to prepare doctoral students in the humanities for careers in both academic and non-academic professions and encourages doctoral students and faculty to engage in scholarship with a broad impact on the world outside the academy.

Under Connolly’s leadership, The Graduate Center’s innovative research was recognized by major grants, including $9.17 million over eight years from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for research at our Advanced Science Research Center, the largest grant to date to a Graduate Center faculty member.

While serving as provost, Connolly doubled the total number of master’s programs, establishing degrees in cutting-edge fields, including nanoscience, international migration studies, and digital humanities. She designed The Graduate Center’s first comprehensive planning and budget process in academic affairs, the Annual Report and Request. Committed to hiring diverse faculty and recruiting a diverse student body, she also initiated an effort to improve students’ experience by increasing staff in student services, offering support in quantitative skills and methods, and establishing best practices in doctoral mentoring.

Connolly is the author of two books and over 70 articles, book reviews, and essays. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, the IndependentThe Village VoiceThe Times Literary Supplement, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Bookforum, The Nation, and the Women’s Review of Books. Her board service includes the board of directors of the Society for Classical Studies and the editorial board of the Journal of the History of Ideas. Her interest in the contemporary arts has led her to work as an interpreter/player for the artist Tino Sehgal and to embark on a translation of Vergil’s pastoral poetry. She speaks and writes regularly about the future of the humanities and her own discipline of classical studies. Her current book project is a study of the value of Roman writing on selected problems in modern political thought, with a special focus on the work of political philosopher Hannah Arendt.

Connolly earned an A.B. from Princeton University in 1991 and a Ph.D. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. After professorships at the University of Washington and Stanford University, she moved to New York University in 2004, where she served as director of the undergraduate core curriculum (2009-2012) and dean for the humanities (2012-2016).

Former President James-Muyskens_170x255

Interim President 2019–2020; University Professor, Philosophy
(M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary; Ph.D., philosophy, University of Michigan)

James L. Muyskens served as interim president from 2019-2020, leading The Graduate Center through the unprecedented challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Under his guidance, The Graduate Center successfully transitioned during that time to remote instruction enhanced by the involvement of The Graduate Center’s Center for Teaching and Learning as well as initiatives to prepare doctoral students for teaching at the CUNY colleges, among Muyskens’ priorities.
During his tenure, The Graduate Center’s research excellence in the humanities and the sciences was recognized with a $3.15 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support humanities teaching and a Simons Foundation grant for photonics research of up to $16 million to Professor Andrea Alù and a team of scientists at the Advanced Science Research Center. Under Muyskens’ leadership, enrollment in master’s programs increased and a new master’s program in nanoscience was introduced. Renowned and diverse faculty appointments were made in the Ph.D. programs in History and Philosophy.
Prior to becoming interim president, Muyskens served as president of Queens College for 12 years, where he was recognized for revising the college’s undergraduate general education curriculum and for enhancing the school’s stature and reputation as one of the nation’s top-value colleges educating students of diverse backgrounds and financial means.
Muyskens spent 16 years at Hunter College, where he taught philosophy and chaired the philosophy department, and served as associate provost and acting provost. A national leader in public higher education, he also served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas for seven years before becoming senior vice chancellor for academic affairs of the 34-campus University System of Georgia.
Muyskens was raised in Minnesota and is a graduate of Central College in Iowa. He earned a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan.
A philosopher with interests in bioethics and the philosophy of religion, he is the author of Moral Problems in Nursing: A Philosophical Investigation and The Sufficiency of Hope: The Conceptual Foundations of Religion.