John Sexton

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John Edward Sexton
John Sexton, the 15th president of New York University since 2002
15th President of New York University
Assumed office
May 17, 2002
Preceded byL. Jay Oliva
Personal details
Born(1942-09-29) September 29, 1942 (age 70)
New York, New York
ResidenceNew York, New York, USA
Alma materFordham University
Harvard University
WebsiteOffice of the President
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John Edward Sexton
John Sexton, the 15th president of New York University since 2002
15th President of New York University
Assumed office
May 17, 2002
Preceded byL. Jay Oliva
Personal details
Born(1942-09-29) September 29, 1942 (age 70)
New York, New York
ResidenceNew York, New York, USA
Alma materFordham University
Harvard University
WebsiteOffice of the President

John Edward Sexton (born September 29, 1942) is the fifteenth President of New York University, having held this position since May 17, 2002, and the Benjamin Butler Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law. From 1988 to 2002, he served as Dean of the NYU School of Law, which during his deanship became one of the top five law schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. From January 1, 2003 to January 1, 2007, he was the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; in 2006, he served as chair of the Federal Reserve System's Council of Chairs.


Education and early career

Sexton graduated from Brooklyn Prep, a Jesuit high school, in 1959 (it closed in 1972). He holds a B.A. in history (1963), an M.A. in comparative religion (1965), a Ph.D. in history of American religion (1978) from Fordham University, as well as a J.D. (1979) magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was Supreme Court Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

From 1966 to 1975, he taught religion at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, where he was chair of the Religion Department.

From 1961 to 1975, Sexton coached the debate team at St. Brendan's High School, a Catholic girls' school in Brooklyn, NY, leading the team to five national championships and numerous invitational titles. He was named to the National Forensic League Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2005, the Barkley Forum at Emory University presented him with a Golden Anniversary Coaching Award recognizing him as a top high school debate coach of the past 50 years. Still an avid proponent of interscholastic debate, he is chairman of the board of ALOUD, the Associated Leaders of Urban Debate, which seeks to bring debate activities to underserved communities in America's urban areas

After graduating from Harvard Law School, he clerked for Harold Leventhal (judge) and David L. Bazelon of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1979-80, and he clerked for Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger in 1980-81.

Career at New York University School of Law

Faculty Member

Sexton joined the faculty of the New York University School of Law in 1981; he received tenure in 1983.

Sexton has written several books and many articles, including Redefining the Supreme Court's Role: A Theory of Managing the Federal Judicial Process ISBN 0-300-03734-1 (with Samuel Estreicher (Yale University Press, 1986)), and the 141-page A Managerial Theory of the Supreme Court's Responsibilities: An Empirical Study published in the NYU Law Review in October 1984. This book and study were the centerpiece of a national debate over the creation of a new intermediate court to fit between the Supreme Court of the United States and the state supreme courts and the United States courts of appeals.[1]

Sexton co-edited Civil Procedure: Cases and Materials ISBN 0-314-25329-7 (along with John Cound, Jack Friedenthal, Helen Hershkoff, and Arthur R. Miller) a widely used textbook on civil procedure.

Dean of the New York University School of Law

In 1988, Sexton was named dean of the New York University School of Law, succeeding Norman Redlich. During his deanship, NYU’s School of Law rose to number five in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools; an emphasis on faculty recruitment reduced the student faculty ratio from 19:1 to 12:1; the Hauser Global Law School Program [2] was established; the school became among the most selective in the U.S. (average LSAT scores rose from the 94th to the 97th percentile; average GPAs rose from 3.54. to 3.66); and in 1998 the school completed the then-largest fundraising campaign in the history of legal education ($185 million). In 2000, Kent D. Syverud, then-dean of the Vanderbilt University Law School, called John Sexton the most effective dean of his generation.[3]

President of New York University

Sexton was named the 15th president of New York University by NYU's Board of Trustees on May 8, 2001, about two months after then-President L. Jay Oliva announced that he was stepping down. "I am a very fortunate man," Sexton told the New York Daily News in an article published the next day. He assumed the post of president on May 17, 2002, one day after the 2002 All-University Commencement, and his official installation occurred on September 26, 2002. In 2009, NYU’s Board of Trustees asked him to stay on as president until 2016, and Sexton accepted.

In addition to his duties as president, Sexton actively teaches; in 2008-09, he taught two courses for NYU undergraduates – a fall freshman seminar on the Supreme Court’s church and state cases, and a spring class for upperclassmen called “Baseball as a Road to God” (which he discussed at length in a conversation on Bill Moyers Journal).[4] In addition, he taught a year-long course on the American Constitution, religion, and government for the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Scholars Program (outstanding undergraduate students in United Arab Emirates’ institutions of higher learning who are selected for special academic and leadership opportunities).

During his presidency, NYU has been named the “number one dream school” four times by The Princeton Review. In 2009, a record number of prospective students applied to NYU for freshman admission.[5]

As president, Sexton has written a number of “Reflections” on the nature of higher education and challenges facing universities.[6] He has also discussed the nature of the university extensively on The Open Mind (TV series).[7]

He appeared as a guest on The Colbert Report on December 6, 2006; during his time in the studio, he gave Mr. Colbert one of his famous hugs.[8]

In May 2010, Sexton was profiled by Bloomberg Businessweek in an article that focused on his priorities for New York University.[9]

In its 25th anniversary issue in June 2010, Crains New York Business named Sexton one of its 25 People to Watch.[10]

In July 2010, he appeared on Charlie Rose (talk show) to discuss the global network university, NYU's Abu Dhabi campus, and the state of public discourse, among other topics.[11]

In July 2012, he was featured in a story on the front page of the New York Times about one of the courses he teaches, Baseball as a Road to God (in addition to his duties as president, Sexton teaches a full faculty courseload).

Expanding the Arts and Science Faculty

In 2004, Sexton announced a program – the Partners Plan - to expand tenured and tenure-track faculty in the arts and sciences by 20 percent,[12] the largest such expansion in the University's history. As of fall 2009, faculty hires under the Partners Plan included totaled 245, including 124 hires to replace departing faculty and 121 new hires to expand the arts and science faculty.

Fundraising: The Campaign for NYU

In 2008, NYU successfully finished what was then the largest completed fundraising campaign in higher education.[13] The Campaign for NYU, with a stated goal of raising $2.5 billion, ultimately raised over $3 billion. In 2009, NYU’s fundraising continued to exceed $1 million per day in spite of the economic crisis.

The Global Network University

In October 2007, NYU announced [14] the creation of NYU Abu Dhabi,[15] the first such campus to be operated abroad by a major research university. The school, which the university is referring to as the “world’s honors college”,[16] is recruiting top students and faculty from around the world,[17] and will begin classes in the fall of 2010. NYU Abu Dhabi is led by Vice Chancellor Al Bloom, who took on the post in 2009 after 18 years as president of Swarthmore College.[18] NYU Abu Dhabi recruited an outstandingly strong first freshman class, which was notable for its selectivity (189 students were accepted out of 9,048 applicants worldwide (an acceptance rate of 2.1 percent), with a 79.4 percent yield), its geographic diversity (the class of 150 students will include students from 39 countries on six continents), and the academic qualifications of its students (at the classes’ 75th percentile, the SAT critical reading score was 770 (ranking it fifth among US universities) and the math score was 780 (ranking it sixth); the median SAT score (on the 1600 scale) was 1470). The recruitment of the class was reported on in an article in The New York Times on June 21, 2010.[19]

During Sexton’s presidency, the percentage of NYU students studying abroad has increased to over 40 percent, and the Institute for International Education recognized NYU as sending more students abroad than any other US university.[20] The number of Study Abroad sites doubled, including the first sites in Asia and Africa. In fall 2009, NYU opened its latest site in Tel Aviv. In addition to its portal campus in Abu Dhabi, NYU currently operated ten Global sites on five continents.[21] In addition to its global sites, individual NYU schools and programs operate some two dozen international programs, including NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ TischAsia in Singapore.[22] The Stern School of Business implemented global components in its undergraduate curriculum.[23] And the NYU School of Law established an LL.M. joint degree program [24] with the National University of Singapore.

Newsweek magazine carried a Q+A with Sexton about the Abu Dhabi campus in August 2008.[25] In August 2009, Sexton discussed the emergence of NYU as a Global Network University in an interview [26] on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition – Sunday with David Greene, as well as in two articles [27] in Abu Dhabi’s English-language newspaper, The National (AbuDhabi). He also discussed the idea of the Global Network University at length in late 2009 with Richard Heffner on The Open Mind (TV series).[28] "The New Global University" was a topic of the British Council's Going Global conference in March 2010, at which Sexton was invited to speak.[29]

At the events marking the announcement of Gordon Brown as NYU's first Global Distinguished Leader in Residence in December 2010, he discussed the Global Network University concept at length.[30]

In March 2011, NAFSA: Association of International Educators recognized NYU with its Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization,[31] and Fast Company (magazine) named NYU #1 on its list of education innovators, citing the opening of NYU Abu Dhabi.[32]

On March 28, 2011, the University made an important announcement that marked a major new step in the evolution of NYU as a Global Network University: the creation of NYU Shanghai, a comprehensive research university with a liberal arts and science college in China’s financial capital, the first American university with independent legal status approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education, and the result of a partnership between NYU and Shanghai.[33]

In April 2011, at the U.S. State Department's US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton specifically cited NYU's announcement about the opening of NYU Shanghai as a cause for celebration, and lauded John Sexton's global vision.[34]

On July 11, 2011 in response to the detention of law-abiding democracy advocates by the government of the United Arab Emirates and Sexton's suggestion that such detention was appropriate to the UAE's "security concerns," Human Rights Watch asked Sexton to publicly retract his statements on the matter. (UAE).[35] He did not respond to this request.

Enhancing the Undergraduate Experience at NYU

Both Sexton’s own transition reports [36] and the Middle States Accreditation Report [37] cited the need to enhance the experience of NYU undergraduates. Since Sexton’s appointment, NYU put in place the award-winning [38] 24/7 Wellness Exchange,[39] specialized programming in student dorms,[40][41][42] and novel resources to assist students.[43] In addition, NYU’s Student Health Center [44] has been a pioneer in depression screening among college students.[45]

Improved Planning -- Framework 2031, and NYU 2031: NYU in NYC

In 2002, Sexton’s transition teams identified the need for improved and better coordinated planning.[36]

In June 2008, the NYU published Framework 2031,[46] which reviewed and addressed the key issues, concerns, and opportunities the University would confront over the two-plus decades leading to its bicentennial.

Increases in the size of the student body and program development that began to accelerate in the 1990s sparked resistance in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, as community members became upset over NYU's expansion projects (though, in fact, NYU has much less academic square footage per student than other major research universities: NYU has 160 sq ft (15 m2). of academic space per student; Columbia has twice that, Harvard has four times as much, and Yale has six times as much). In 2007, NYU began a space planning process with intensive community involvement to provide a roadmap for aligning the University’s academic needs and its growth through 2031;[47] the process included a number of open houses to provide for community input.[48] In April 2010, the University publicly shared NYU 2031: NYU in NYC, a long-term, city-wide strategic framework for how and where NYU should develop space for its academic mission. The strategy envisioned the addition of as much as 6,000,000 sq ft (560,000 m2) of space over more than two decades, but recognized that all of NYU's space needs could not be accommodated within its neighborhood; therefore NYU 2031: NYU in NYC called for fully half of the growth to be spread over three locations outside Greenwich Village—along Manhattan's Eastside health corridor, in Downtown Brooklyn, and on Governors Island—and half in or near its core.[49]

In March 2011, NYU shared updated information on its plans to meet its academic space needs over the coming two decades, and in particular its proposal for the two "superblocks" near its campus core.[50] Following strong editorial support by New York City's major newspapers, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, Crain's NY Business, and The NY Obsersver, and the approval of New York's City Planning Commission, the New York City Council overwhelmingly voted approval (44-1 in favor) of the NYU 2031 proposals in July 2012.

Leadership in higher education

Sexton has held a number of leadership positions in major higher education organizations. While Dean of the NYU School of Law, Sexton served as president of the Association of American Law Schools. In 2009, Sexton served as chair of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, vice-chair and chair-designate of the American Council on Education, and chair of the New York Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the board of the Association of American Universities, a member of the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and a member of the board of the Institute of International Education.

In 2008-09, Sexton co-chaired (with Rick Trainor, the principal of Kings College London) the US-UK Study Group on Higher Education in a Global Environment,[51] a working group of university presidents constituted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In August 2008, Sexton was cited in Newsweek magazine in a piece called “The Campus of the Future”.[52]

In October 2009, Sexton was suggested as a recipient of a prize for leadership on the site [53] by Paul R. Portney, dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.

In November 2009, Time (magazine) named Sexton one of the 10 Best College Presidents.[54]

In March 2010, Sexton was named Chair of the American Council on Education[55]

In December 2010, Sexton was cited in the On Leadership section of The Washington Post for his efforts as president of NYU.[56]

In 2011, Sexton led a blue ribbon panel assembled by the American Council on Education that issued a report on the competitiveness of U.S. universities and the global higher education environment.[57]

Sexton was interviewed by education scholar David L. Kirp for chapter four of his book Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education ISBN 0-674-01634-3.[58] He was also interviewed by Stephen Nelson about universities and their place in public dialogue for the book Leaders in the Labyrinth ISBN 0-275-99792-8.[59] And he has discussed issues relating to the academy several times [60] on The Open Mind (talk show)

Grad student labor dispute

In recent years, there has been controversy at NYU over the issue of collective bargaining and union representation for graduate assistants (GAs). In 2001, NYU signed the first and only collective bargaining agreement for GAs at a private university.[61] In July 2004 in a case involving Brown University, the National Labor Relations Board reversed its 2000 ruling involving NYU and – reverting to long-standing prior precedent—determined that graduate students are not workers.[62] In the spring and summer of 2005, there were discussions between NYU and the United Auto Workers (which represented the GAs) to try to come to terms on a new contract. Ultimately, this proved unsuccessful, and NYU decided not to negotiate a second contract [63] with the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, sparking a strike among graduate assistants in late 2005 and criticism of Sexton. GSOC called off the strike in 2006.[64] In 2009, NYU’s Graduate School of Arts & Science – home to most of the NYU's fully funded graduate students—modified its financial aid packages for graduate students to eliminate assistantship duties; thereafter, graduate students who wished to teach could do so (with additional compensation beyond their graduate study stipends) as adjunct faculty, who are unionized at NYU.[65]

Free speech dispute

During Sexton’s presidency, NYU also became involved in a disagreement with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE claimed that NYU wrongly (but constitutionally, since NYU is a private school) suppressed the display of Mohammad cartoons in April 2006, which were planned to accompany an event sponsored by an NYU student organization, the Objectivist Club. The student organizers had been given a choice by the University: the cartoons could be displayed, in which case the event would have to be an NYU-only event, open to the 60,000 member NYU community; or the Club could choose not to display the cartoons, in which case the event could be open to the general public as well. The Objectivist Club chose the latter format. In a letter, Sexton challenged FIRE claims.[66]

Position regarding academic freedom and the right to political expression

In both the NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai campuses, NYU, under Sexton, has insisted on having full discretion over academic matters and that the principles of academic freedom prevail. Regarding NYU's establishment of campuses in countries where strong restrictions exist on free public expression, Sexton has suggested that academic freedom and the right to political expression are easily distinguishable from one another: "I have no trouble distinguishing between rights of academic freedom and rights of political expression," he said. "These are two different things." [67]

Approval of NYU's 2031 Plan, and Objections Raised by Faculty

Some members of the faculty claimed that the administration of New York University, in seeking approvals for the NYU 2031 plan, would create a development project that would remove large tracts of open space from Greenwich Village and create a construction zone on and off for years to come. Out of 170 academic departments in the University, approximately 40 passed resolutions against the NYU 2031 plan, including a majority of the departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; in response, Sexton indicated in a University Senate meeting in spring 2012 that he would establish a presidential working group, composed largely of faculty, to review space and development issues.

A faculty organization called "Faculty Against the Sexton Plan" was formed to fight the administration's plans.[68] The issue has become contentious within the Greenwich Village community, leading to raucous public meetings.[69]


In the 2007-8 school year, the NY Post reports, Sexton received $1.3 million in executive compensation for his service as president of the university.[70]


Sexton is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and President of the New York Academy of Sciences.[71] He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

In 2002, an endowed professorship – the John Edward Sexton Professorship of Law – was created in his honor at the NYU School of Law.

In 2003, the 60th anniversary edition of NYU’s Annual Survey of American Law was dedicated [72] to Sexton.

In July 2008, he was named a Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur.

He has received honorary degrees from Hamilton College, the University of Warwick in the UK, Fordham University, St. John's University (New York), the University of Rochester, St. Francis College, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Saint Joseph's College (New York), and the University of Surrey.

Sexton was named the Brooklyn Prep “Alumnus of the Year” in 1995. And he was selected as the featured speaker Harvard Law School Forum Speaker in 2005.[73]

He is a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association based in New York City.

Personal life

Thomas Oliphant's New York Times Bestseller Praying for Gil Hodges briefly mentions that Sexton grew up as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. In fact, Sexton is such a well-known baseball fan that he was an early participant in Rotissere (or Fantasy) Baseball, as a member of the Eddie Gaedel Baseball League. Sexton was one of a number of celebrities who reminisced about their baseball memories on the HBO special Brooklyn Dodgers - Ghosts of Flatbush. In July 2009, Sexton was invited to throw out a first pitch at Washington Nationals Game.[74] He teaches "Baseball, A Road To God" at NYU.[75]

In September 2009, he was featured in The New York TimesSunday Routines section.[76] He is a Roman Catholic.

In March 2010, he was interviewed by Bill Moyers on the PBS Public Broadcasting Service show Bill Moyers Journal.[77]

In May 2010, he was the subject of a NY1 profile on One on 1 with Budd Mishkin.[78]

His wife, Lisa E. Goldberg, president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, died suddenly of an brain aneurysm on January 21, 2007 at age 54.[79][80]

He has a son, Jed, and a daughter, Katie. Jed is married to Danielle DeCrette and has three daughters: Julia, Ava, and Natalie. Katie is currently a 1L at NYU School of Law. Sexton also has a dog, LEGS.


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External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
L. Jay Oliva
President of New York University
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Norman Redlich
Dean of New York University School of Law
Succeeded by
Richard Revesz