President Spar's Biography

Debora L. Spar is the seventh president of Barnard College and a vocal proponent of women’s education and leadership.

Spar received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and her Master’s and Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University. Prior to coming to Barnard, she was the Spangler Family Professor at Harvard Business School, where she also served as Senior Associate Dean for faculty research and development and taught courses on the politics of international business, comparative capitalism, and economic development.

Spar’s scholarly research has focused on issues that sit at the confluence of business, technology, and society. She is the author of numerous books, including Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection (2013), The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception (2006), and Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Invention, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet (2001). Her current book project, tentatively titled The Machines That Make Us, will examine how technology drives such intimate matters as love, marriage, and families. She is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves as a director of Goldman Sachs and a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Spar was inaugurated as President of Barnard in 2008. During her tenure, applications to the College have increased by over fifty percent, the percentage of international students on campus has more than doubled, and the percentage of students of color has risen from one third to nearly one half. Spar has been instrumental in the development of the new Foundations curriculum, as well as planning for Barnard’s new teaching and learning center, slated to open in 2018.  In 2015, she led the historic move to broaden Barnard’s admissions policy to include transgender women.

From the start, President Spar has spearheaded initiatives that highlight women’s leadership and advancement. In 2009, she created the Athena Center for Leadership Studies, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the theory and practice of women's leadership, and Barnard’s Global Symposium series in which high-profile leaders gather each year to discuss the ways in which women are shaping their regions of the world. During Spar’s tenure, the College has hosted a wide range of luminaries—including President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Elie Wiesel, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, and Leymah Gbowee—highlighting Barnard’s role as an exceptional place to address issues of importance to women, education, and society.

Debora Spar is married to architect Miltos Catomeris. They are the parents of three children.