John Palfrey

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John Palfrey joined the board in 2011, serving as chair from March 2014 through December 2019. He currently serves on the Program Committee.

John Palfrey is President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies with assets of approximately $7 billion, and offices in Chicago, New Delhi, and Abuja, Nigeria.

Palfrey is a well-respected educator, author, legal scholar, and innovator with expertise in how new media is changing learning, education, and other institutions. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a commitment to rigorous thinking, disruption, and creative solutions often made possible by technology, accessibility of information, and diversity and inclusion. Palfrey has extensive experience in social change spanning the education, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Palfrey served as Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover, the only school of its kind to maintain need-blind admissions. During his tenure, the number of faculty members of color doubled, and the student body grew more diverse. He oversaw the creation of the Tang Institute at Andover, which seeks to reform and democratize excellent teaching and learning. Previously, he was founding board chair of the Digital Public Library of America, executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and vice dean for library and information resources at Harvard Law School.

Palfrey has published extensively on how young people learn in a digital era, as well as the effects of new technologies on society at large. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including “Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education” (The MIT Press, 2017), Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age” (Basic Books, 2016), BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google,” (Basic Books, 2015), “Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems” (Basic Books, 2012) and “Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies,” a report for a multi-state group of attorneys general.

Palfrey holds a JD from Harvard Law School, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and an AB from Harvard College.