Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has appointed Debora L. Spar, a distinguished academic leader and former Harvard Business School professor, as its next President and Chief Executive Officer, Board Chairman Katherine Farley announced today.
Spar, 53, will become Lincoln Center’s first female president. She will call upon a unique range of expertise in business, the arts and fundraising to steer the institution forward as it builds on its mission to bring the best of the performing arts to the broadest possible audience, and embarks upon a comprehensive renovation of David Geffen Hall. The re-imagination of the new hall will represent the next and final piece of the recently completed, $1.2 billion transformation of the Lincoln Center campus.
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Spar was elected President of Barnard College in July 2008, and her nearly nine-year tenure at the illustrious institution is widely recognized for stimulating substantial academic and financial growth, and establishing a renewed commitment to the arts.
“Debora’s vision and experience in the arts, education, and business make her the ideal choice to lead Lincoln Center at this exciting time,” said Farley, Board Chairman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “She has been a transformative President at Barnard College, expanding their arts curriculum, successfully completing major construction projects and galvanizing financial support.”
Under Spar’s leadership at Barnard, student applications rose by more than 50 percent, and the College’s endowment nearly doubled. She launched the largest capital campaign in the College’s history, and was instrumental in the planning of Barnard’s new teaching and learning center, set to open in August 2018. Immediately upon her arrival at Barnard, she successfully managed major construction of the new student center, The Diana Center, which was the first building to be constructed on campus since 1987.
A true champion of arts education, Spar is noted for being an innovative thinker, with a particular understanding of youth culture and insight on the emergent relationship among the arts, technology, and the global economy. She is credited with a transcendent arts renaissance on campus, as demonstrated by the creation of a number of successful programs, such as the Orzeck Distinguished Artist-in-Residence program, which brought world-renowned artists such as Wendy Whelan and Twyla Tharp to the College, the Athena Film Festival, the Writer-in-Residence program, and the International Artist series. Together these initiatives expanded arts engagement and education across disciplines, including dance, music, film, visual arts, theater and architecture.
Prior to her time at Barnard, Spar was a professor at Harvard Business School for 17 years, and served as Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development. She taught courses on the politics of international business, comparative capitalism, and economic development. She has authored seven books and numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including the role of technology in the future of music and performance art.
“I am honored by the opportunity to lead this iconic institution, and look forward to working with the talented and accomplished team and resident organizations at Lincoln Center,” said Spar, incoming President of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Debora is a true champion of the arts, and her keen intelligence is complemented by an innovative spirit and contemporary sensibility…
“Debora is a true champion of the arts, and her keen intelligence is complemented by an innovative spirit and contemporary sensibility,” said Twyla Tharp, founder of Twyla Tharp Dance. “Her expert communication skills with the younger generation, honed over her years as a teacher, also make her an optimal voice to carry Lincoln Center’s message to future audiences.”
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Spar was elected to the prestigious Academy of Arts and Science in 2011, and serves as a director of Goldman Sachs and a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She holds a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University, and received her Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
“Debora impressed us all, bringing the right set of skills and leadership traits to this demanding position,” said Ann Ziff, Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera, Trustee of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and member of the search committee for a new President.
Spar will join Lincoln Center as its 10th president in mid-March 2017. In the interim, Katherine Farley will continue to oversee and work closely with a transition team of senior management, led by Chief Operating Officer Liza Parker, established after Jed Bernstein’s departure in April 2016, to ensure the successful continuation of all Lincoln Center activities.
Spar is married to architect Miltos Catomeris. They are the parents of three children.
For more information, visit LincolnCenter.org.
Photo credit: Debora Spar, president of Barnard College, speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. Spar, in a book that will be published in September, urges women to quit trying to be perfect and understand they can show up at power breakfasts with baby spit on their lapels. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images.