Robert L. Barchi was named the 20th president of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, on April 11, 2012. He will begin serving as president of Rutgers University on September 1, 2012.
Since 2004, Barchi, a neuroscientist, clinical neurologist, and educator, has served as president of Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) in Philadelphia, nationally regarded as a top university dedicated to health sciences education and research. Prior to Jefferson, he was provost and chief academic officer of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution founded in 1740. There, he had responsibility for Penn’s 12 schools, all academic programs, athletics, students, and faculty.
Barchi was born in Philadelphia but spent his formative years not far from Rutgers in Westfield, N.J. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Georgetown University, and Ph.D. and M.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed specialty training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and holds board certification in neurology. Throughout his career, Barchi has been active as a teacher and as an NIH-funded researcher in the fields of neuroscience and neurology, as well as a clinical neurologist, and he has published extensively in his field. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of his pioneering research on the structure and function of voltage-gated ion channels in nerve and muscle, and on the role these critical molecules can play in human disease. He was also elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians and named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Neurological Association, and the American Academy of Neurology.
As president of Thomas Jefferson University, Barchi oversaw a period of tremendous growth. The university established three new schools—including the Jefferson School of Pharmacy, which graduates its first class in May 2012, and the Jefferson School of Population Health, the only school in the nation to offer a master’s degree in chronic care management. Overall student enrollment increased by 51 percent and annual degrees awarded rose by 54 percent. Barchi also expanded the reach of the campus, inaugurating the Partnership in Healthcare Education, an academic affiliation with the University of Delaware that offers dual-degree programs between the two institutions.
Other accomplishments at TJU include successful implementation of an ambitious strategic plan that integrated Jefferson’s clinical, education, and research missions; a comprehensive facilities master plan that supports those missions; and a major fundraising campaign that provides the resources necessary for success. Since Barchi’s arrival, TJU has established 22 new endowed professorships and 50 endowed scholarships, helping to ensure a healthy and diverse community of faculty and students. The university’s Kimmel Cancer Center leapt 20 places in national rankings, and major new academic initiatives were undertaken in neuroscience and computational biology. The university will soon surpass $300 million in fundraising, twice the amount raised during the preceding eight-year period.
During his presidency, Barchi also oversaw the transformation of Jefferson’s urban environment into a vibrant university campus. The Sidney and Ethal Lubert Plaza added 1.4 acres of open space to Center City Philadelphia. This award-winning, eco-friendly green space is used by students, faculty and staff, and the surrounding community. A new branding program, coupled with improved landscape design and signage, has helped provide visitors and the Jefferson community a sense of place and connectedness to the compact urban campus in the heart of the city’s historic district.
In 1972, Barchi began his academic career as a faculty member at Penn. Within a decade, he rose to become the David Mahoney Professor of Neurological Sciences. Between 1983 and 1996, he served as director of the Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences—an interdisciplinary, universitywide entity that he expanded to become the focus for Penn’s growth in neuroscience, encompassing the intellectual activities of more than 120 faculty members. Barchi founded the Department of Neuroscience at Penn and served as its first chair; he also served as chair of the Department of Neurology. He was named the Fairhill Professor in 2002, a position that he still holds in emeritus status.
The University of Pennsylvania named Barchi as its provost and chief academic officer in 1999, and he served in this capacity until 2004. As provost, Barchi had responsibility for the university’s 12 schools and their academic programs and budgets, Penn’s intercollegiate athletics program, as well as for Penn’s students and faculty. During his tenure, he worked with President Judith Rodin to reassert the primacy of the academic mission in the direction of the university. He recruited new leadership to nine of the 12 schools at Penn and established a number of universitywide interdisciplinary educational and research institutes. He also led the university through a comprehensive strategic planning process.
Barchi is married to Francis Harper Barchi, a senior fellow in the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is engaged in education and research activities relating to international research ethics. Francis Barchi holds a Ph.D. in social welfare, a master’s in bioethics and a master’s in nonprofit leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a bachelor’s degree from Smith College. She is the former executive vice president of the Dana Foundation in New York, a post she assumed following a 20-year span as president of her own company that provided protocol and strategic communication services for international clients. Francis Barchi’s research focuses on the social and behavioral factors that influence women’s health in southern Africa. In 2009, she completed the first major quantitative study on women’s autonomy and gender-based violence in Botswana, and she is the principal investigator on a study in that country examining the extent to which women’s understanding of HPV and cervical cancer influences their decision-making about prevention and treatment. She is currently part of a team responsible for ethics training of health professionals in Botswana, Tanzania, and Guatemala.
As an avocation, President Barchi is an expert in the history and mechanical development of clocks and watches. In addition to collecting and conserving examples of these timepieces from the 17th and 18th centuries, he designs and constructs his own precision clocks in his basement machine shop.
The Barchis, who have four adult children and one young dog, spend their leisure time at their home in coastal Maine where they are avid boaters and hikers.