Announcement Regarding Provost Mary C. Boyce

April 06, 2023

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I write to share that Mary C. Boyce will step down from her role as Provost on June 30, 2023, capping off a decade of masterful service to Columbia in the highest levels of University leadership. I am very happy to announce that she will return to teaching and research full time as a member of the Columbia Engineering faculty.

Mary’s tenure as the chief academic officer of this institution saw the University through some of the most gratifying achievements and complex challenges in its recent history.

As Provost, she helped lead Columbia out of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, presiding over the return of all students, faculty, and staff to campus in the fall of 2021. Tenaciously, she worked to ensure that we maintained our standards of academic excellence while keeping everyone safe and deepening our shared resilience and empathy.

As she does with every assignment, Mary has brought great dedication and energy to her work as Provost. She focused on building interdisciplinary bridges across schools, in developing programs to support new approaches to teaching and pedagogy, and on accelerating the recruitment of faculty from historically underrepresented groups.

She also brought unprecedented transparency to our admissions process through the launch of Columbia’s Common Data Set Initiative, with its mission to provide comprehensive and independently verified information to prospective students and their parents. She steered what had been a years-long graduate student unionization process to a successful conclusion, and helped us welcome a record numbers of new deans.

Mary’s accomplishments as Provost built upon her eight years of leadership as Dean of Columbia Engineering. There, she recruited a wide array of gifted faculty and oversaw the renovation and expansion of classroom and laboratory spaces across the school. She led impressive fundraising efforts, expanded access to students and faculty from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM, and created educational programs and initiatives focused on entrepreneurship, innovation, and design. Mary was known for prioritizing the growth of collaborative and interdisciplinary efforts to confront global challenges facing society through basic research and real-world implementation. Perhaps most famously, she helped lead a group of scientists from Columbia and Cornell University in designing a reconstruction plan for the L train that avoided closing the line, which had been significantly damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

All that Mary has achieved is grounded in the depth and breadth of her talents as a scholar and scientist. A mechanical engineer who works in nanotechnology and materials research, she has focused on the behaviors of soft polymers and composites. Her groundbreaking contributions include creating new modeling methods for the use of engineers in designing planes, transportation vehicles, and biomedical devices, among others. Her impact as a mentor and scholar is also visible through the doctoral students and postdocs from her group holding faculty positions across the country and around the world. In 2020, she was awarded the Timoshenko Medal, the highest honor accorded by the Applied Mechanics Division of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which she is a fellow. She has also been elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Before coming to Columbia, Mary was on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for more than 25 years, including as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

We celebrate Mary for her leadership, for her scholarship and teaching, and for her perfect collegiality. She has left an indelible mark on this institution and helped secure its future for generations to come. I am personally grateful to her for her unwavering commitment to academic excellence and to serving Columbia. Plans will be shared for her successor as they take shape. For this moment, however, we all join in thanking her for all she has done for every member and part of our community.


Lee C. Bollinger