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Commissioner Freeland

Headshot of Commissioner Richard M. Freeland

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Richard M. Freeland is Commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts, appointed to this position by Governor Deval Patrick in January 2009. Working with the Board of Higher Education, he is responsible for providing overall direction to public higher education in Massachusetts and helping shape state-level policies that maximize the benefits of higher education to the Commonwealth and its citizens.

Previously, Freeland was President of Northeastern University for ten years, from August 1996 to August 2006. Under his leadership, Northeastern pursued excellence as a national research university that is student-centered, practice-oriented and urban. Freeland emphasized Northeastern’s leadership in practice-oriented education by enhancing the University’s flagship program of cooperative education and strengthening links between co-op and classroom. A major achievement of Freeland’s presidency was the transformation of Northeastern into a nationally selective, residential university with a high-achieving student body, increased enrollments from beyond Massachusetts and New England, improved graduation rates and enhanced academic stature. Over the ten years of Freeland’s presidency, Northeastern rose from 162 to 98 in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of “Best National Universities,” a repositioning the Boston Business Journal called “one of the most dramatic since U.S. News began ranking in 1983.”

Freeland has spent his entire academic career in urban higher education. As Assistant to the President of the University of Massachusetts in 1970, he focused on the development of a new campus in Boston. For the next 22 years, he was associated with UMass Boston, serving as Assistant to the Chancellor, Director of Educational Planning, founding Dean of the College of Professional Studies, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Between 1992 and 1996 Freeland was Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the City University of New York, the country’s largest urban system of public higher education.

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 by Oxford in 1992, and The Truman Doctrine and the Origins of McCarthyism, published by Knopf 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 program in Bellagio, Italy. During 2006–07 he was a Visiting Professor of Higher Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, and during 2007–09 he was the Mosakowski Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at Clark University. He has also been a Visitor at the Harvard Business School.

Freeland received a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 1963 and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969.


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