Stanford names Tessier-Lavigne as next president

A former Stanford University faculty member has been appointed to become the college’s next president starting in September, university officials announced today.

Marc Tessier-Lavigne, 56, will succeed John Hennessy, who is stepping down Aug. 31 after 16 years, according to school officials.

“I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to build on the remarkable legacy of John Hennessy,” Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement.

“It will be a privilege to rejoin the Stanford community and to lead this extraordinary institution,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

The 56-year-old is currently president at The Rockefeller University in New York City, an institution concentrated on biomedical research, and his research has focused on neuroscience, university officials said.

He was the first in his immediate family to earn a college degree, according to university officials.

Tessier-Lavigne was a biological sciences professor at Stanford between 2001 and 2005 and spent part of his time on leave to work at Genentech Inc., a South San Francisco-based biotech company, in 2003, university officials said.

At Genentech, Tessier-Lavigne served in management roles including executive vice president for research and chief scientific officer, school officials said.

Board of trustees chairman Steve Denning said in a statement:

“Marc Tessier-Lavigne brings to Stanford an infectious energy, confident leadership, a distinguished academic record and a lifetime immersed in leading initiatives to develop knowledge for the benefit of humanity.”

A 19-member committee was tasked with finding the university’s next president and selected Tessier-Lavigne by a unanimous vote following a six-month search, university officials said.

The college’s board of trustees approved the selection during a special meeting this morning, according to university officials.

Trustee Isaac Stein said in a statement:

“What we have learned through this search, without exception, is that (Tessier-Lavigne) has made every institution he has touched far better for his presence.”

Tessier-Lavigne was an assistant professor of anatomy at the University of California at San Francisco starting in 1991 and worked his way up to a full professorship. He also taught biochemistry and biophysics, earning teaching honors along the way, university officials said.

He was also an investigator at The Howard Hughes Medical Institute based in Maryland, according to school officials.

He has testified before Congress on the need for federal funds to support research and helped establish the New York Genome Center, university officials said.

Tessier-Lavigne’s research has centered on the cause and treatment of degenerative brain illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, school officials said.

Tessier-Lavigne is from Ontario, Canada and spent a majority of his childhood in Europe. He is married to Mary Hynes, a neuroscientist, with whom he shares three children, according to university officials.

He obtained his undergraduate degrees in physics from McGill University in addition to philosophy and physiology at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, university officials said.

Tessier-Lavigne said:

“I look forward to rejoining the Stanford family next summer. … I am excited to work with all members of our community to drive Stanford to even greater heights.”