Interview with Leon Botstein: 35 Years (and Counting) as President of Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

After 35 years at Bard College, Leon Botstein reflects on his life as a public intellectual


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David Schwab recalls when Leon Botstein first sashayed into his Manhattan law office more than 35 years ago to apply for the job of president of Bard College. His first impression? “He was very young.” His second impression? “He was very articulate.” And although Botstein showed up with some pretty snazzy credentials — he was already president of the now defunct Franconia College in New Hampshire, a post he landed at the tender age of 23 — “it was his charisma, his intelligence, his vision of what an undergraduate college could be,” according to Schwab — that ultimately led to the 28-year-old landing the college’s top spot.

But did Schwab, the chairman emeritus of Bard’s board of trustees, ever imagine that decades later Botstein would still be at it? “Not at all. We all thought that Bard might be a stepping-stone to a more prestigious college presidency. But rather than move on, he ended up making Bard as prestigious as anybody would want.”

That he has.

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