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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

To them, he’s Tony: University President Monaco, as told by those who know him best

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University President Anthony Monaco is pictured on the Academic Quad on May 5.

As University President Anthony Monaco prepares to leaves Tufts alongside the Class of 2023, the Daily reached out to senior members of the administration to get a sense of his leadership style and character. While much of the Tufts community’s interactions with Monaco have been in passing, if at all, those who know him well described the outgoing president as “principled,” “conscientious” and “brilliant,” among other ways.

James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, has worked with Monaco since he became university president in 2011. He told the Daily that Monaco leads with “great clarity.”

“You know where he stands. You know what the goals and priorities are,” Glaser wrote in an email to the Daily. “He’s persuasive that those goals and priorities are the right ones, and that makes it easy to work together to reach them.”

Kyongbum Lee, dean of the School of Engineering, said that Monaco leads decisively with a strong sense of values, persuading those who work with him by appealing to their sense of mission and purpose.

“He led the university with conviction that our words and actions should be aligned with our mission and values,” Lee wrote in an email to the Daily. “During a tumultuous time when cynicism has increased in our national discourse, he took clear, principled stances on a number of issues of importance to the Tufts community, and encouraged students to take actions on their own principles.”

Caroline Genco, provost and senior vice president ad interim, recalled meeting Monaco for the first time in 2015 when she was chair of the immunology department at Tufts University School of Medicine.

“Tony took the time to meet with all department heads individually at TUSM that year to learn about our work, needs, and priorities firsthand,” Genco wrote in an email to the Daily. To this day, she added, “he has continued leading through community-building” and “always puts people and our community first.”

“His ground-up, community-oriented approach to leadership demonstrates his commitment to civic engagement and service,” Genco wrote.

Lee referred to Monaco’s launch of a mental health task force in 2016 as an example of his care for the Tufts community. The task force’s recommendations lead to the creation of a steering committee which continues to review and assess student mental health and wellness.

“It is clear that Tony takes great joy in not only seeing our students succeed academically, but also find personal fulfillment and happiness,” Lee wrote. “Tony deeply cares about the well-being of the entire Tufts community.”

Since becoming university president in August 2011, Monaco has overseen the school’s acquisition of the SMFA, the introduction of the Tufts as an Anti-Racist Institution initiative and the growth of the school’s endowment by over $1 billion.

Peter Dolan (A’78), chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tufts, has worked with Monaco for as long as the president has been at Tufts. He called Monaco “off the charts smart.”

“With Tony, it’s always about what’s best for the institution,” Dolan wrote in an email to the Daily. “It’s never about him. He puts Tufts first and brings very little personal ego.”

Genco, Glaser and Lee all praised Monaco’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted Tufts for nearly a quarter of the president’s tenure.

“In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Tony led a COVID-19 test pooling initiative, not only protecting our campus community, but also our host and neighboring communities,” Genco wrote. “During a time of isolation and uncertainty, he brought pieces of Tufts together.”

Glaser commended Monaco’s handling of the pandemic as an example of his skill as a leader.

“As Tufts president, he has applied his brilliance and creativity to our very complex environment,” Glaser wrote. “His leadership of Tufts through the pandemic was illustrative of this.  I don’t think anyone could have done it better.”

Monaco is also a renowned geneticist; since arriving at Tufts from Oxford University, he has worked with various departments to research genetic mental health disorders. He plans to continue his sabbatical once he steps down as president this June.

“Tony approaches everything as a true scientist—with close attention to detail and curiosity. But he never loses his humanity and compassion when making complex decisions,” Genco wrote. “In fact, his compassion and empathy are at the core of all the work he does—from research to mentoring to leading an R1 university.”

Early in Monaco’s tenure, Glaser recalled hearing him talk about his research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“I was struck not just by the complexity of the problem, but by the creativity and brilliance of his solution,” Glaser wrote.

Monaco continues to tell stories about his own research and others’.

“He is always sharing scientific articles and research that he’s fascinated by and updating us on the Gifford House animals,” Genco wrote. “His passion for research and lifelong learning shines through in everything he does.”

Monaco regularly attends student-run events and performances on campus. Dolan said that Monaco “genuinely cares about the students and the student experience.”

“I love to see him at student events where he can get wildly enthusiastic about our Tufts students’ success,” Dolan wrote.

Though Lee has only worked with Monaco as dean for two years, he said he feels fortunate to have learned from his leadership.

“I greatly appreciate that Tony has provided the space for us deans to chart our schools’ own courses, while helping us move forward together towards the shared vision of a student-centered research university,” Lee wrote. 

Glaser said Monaco’s principles are clearly defined and “align beautifully with the ethos of Tufts.”

“He has made decisions and set priorities in ways that the community could support,” Glaser wrote. “And he has led us with great integrity.”