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11/17/2020 - Cynthia M. Friend Named Incoming President of The Kavli Foundation

The Kavli Foundation has selected Dr. Cynthia M. Friend, Theodore Williams Richards Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, as its next president. Dr. Friend will assume this post January 1, 2021.

“Dr. Friend assumes the presidency of The Kavli Foundation as we celebrate our 20th anniversary. As a distinguished scientist with proven executive leadership skills, her appointment as president assures that The Kavli Foundation will continue its extraordinary impact on the scientific enterprise through its visionary leadership and its philanthropy. Her well-recognized interdisciplinary approach and collaborative style will serve her well with all our constituencies, inside and outside the foundation. I look forward to participating with her to create an exciting future for The Kavli Foundation in the science it supports,” remarked Chairman of the Board, Rockell N. Hankin.

Cynthia Friend“It is an honor to join The Kavli Foundation as president. The foundation provides an exciting opportunity to foster and support science for the benefit of humankind now and in the future. I am looking forward to working in partnership with The Kavli Foundation staff and with scientific leaders around the world,” said Dr. Cynthia Friend.

Dr. Friend has been a member of the Harvard University faculty since 1982. She has served in numerous leadership positions, including Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She was the first female chair and the first female professor in chemistry at Harvard. She was also Director of The Rowland Institute at Harvard, a privately endowed, nonprofit, basic research organization conceived to advance science in a wide variety of fields. Previously, Dr. Friend served as Associate Lab Director at SLAC National Accelerator Lab, a preeminent international facility for X-ray science. 

As a researcher, Dr. Friend has published more than 300 papers. Her research group at Harvard University focuses on addressing global challenges in reducing energy costs and in developing alternative energy sources. She has served as the research advisor for over 75 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are leaders in academia and industry in their own rights. Dr. Friend has also led efforts to change policies in universities and other organizations to promote diversity.

The daughter of World War II veterans, Dr. Friend was born and raised in southern Nebraska. She credits her parents for supporting her curiosity and the space race of the mid-twentieth century in sustaining her interest in science. After graduating high school, she continued her path in science, receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Her post-doctoral research was conducted at Stanford University.     

“I couldn’t be more pleased to welcome Cynthia Friend as the next president of The Kavli Foundation. She will now lead one of the world’s most consequential science-focused foundations. Over 20 years, The Kavli Foundation has endowed 20 Kavli Institutes at leading research universities around the world, established the distinguished Kavli Prizes in neuroscience, nanoscience and astrophysics, and developed a reputation as an important catalyzer, convener and enabler in advancing science and strengthening the connection between science and society. I have every confidence in her ability to lead the foundation into its third decade, building on the outstanding work of the foundation’s board, its staff and all of our partners,” said Bob Conn, current president and CEO of The Kavli Foundation. After 12 years in his role, Dr. Conn is retiring after the end of this year.

Dr. Friend is on the board of directors at Bruker Instruments, a publicly traded company specializing in instrumentation and medical diagnostics, and she serves as Vice Chair of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee. This federal committee provides independent advice on complex scientific and technical issues important in management and implementation of basic energy sciences programs. 

Among her numerous awards and honors, Dr. Friend is a member elected to the National Academy of Sciences (2019) and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2018), American Chemical Society (2010) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2009). She has received several awards from the American Chemical Society, including the ACS Award in Surface Chemistry (2017), the George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon Chemistry (2009) and the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Garvan Medal (1991).

Dr. Friend is married to Professor Robert Madix, a distinguished scientist who has had a long career at Stanford and Harvard Universities. She has four adult children. Currently, Dr. Friend resides in Massachusetts and looks forward to her move to California in 2021.  

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