Jonathan Lash, serving his seventh year as president of Hampshire College, has announced his retirement at the completion of the academic year, in June 2018. He was named the sixth president of the College on May 11, 2011, joining Hampshire as an internationally recognized expert on global sustainability, climate change, and environmental challenges and solutions. He was appointed by two US Presidents to serve on a national environmental council and commission.
Lash is also currently president of the Board of Directors of Five Colleges, Inc., working collaboratively with the leaders of Hampshire’s four partner consortium institutions. In addition, he sits on numerous boards, such as those of the World Resources Institute, the International Living Future Institute, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities.
He has steered Hampshire through a period marked by significant advances in its student-centered education, access to higher education, diversity, sustainability, philanthropy, and infrastructure. He has recommitted Hampshire to the pursuit of its founding principles — to put ideas into action, to engage students and faculty in critical social issues, and for all to be a force for positive change in the world. And he has motivated record numbers of donors to invest in these efforts.
With Lash at the helm, the College has undergone a reorientation of its admissions strategy to more accurately enroll the students for whom Hampshire is the right fit, and reorganized its financial-aid program to support them with need-based funds. In 2014, Hampshire became the first U.S. institution not to accept SATs and ACTs, citing that the tests have no predictive value for determining who will excel at the College and are biased against low-income families. Since that decision, Hampshire has also significantly increased the diversity of its student body, faculty, and board of trustees and made significant advances in being an inclusive, intentionally antiracist community.
He was instrumental in the vision for Hampshire’s construction of its first stand-alone building in more than 25 years, the R.W. Kern Center, which was funded by private donors and designed collaboratively by architects and builders along with a campus committee of faculty, staff, and students. The Kern Center has been recognized by, among others, the American Institute of Architects and National Geographic as a model green building and living laboratory for education.
With Lash’s support, the College has strengthened its Academic Affairs division and the academic experience with the endowment of new professorships and the creation of several innovative programs, such as Ethics and the Common Good, Entrepreneurship, and the Hampshire College Farm. During his tenure, the Mellon Foundation awarded Hampshire $1.2 million to redefine the academic library as a “knowledge commons.”
His essays and ideas on improving education have been published by such media as Education Week, the Hechinger Report, the Washington Post, and Money magazine, extending Hampshire’s influence in higher education.
Before coming to Hampshire, Lash was president of the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think tank. Under his leadership, the organization quadrupled its budget and globalized its work, with offices in eight nations and partners in more than 50 countries. While in that role, in 2010, Lash was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
From 1993 to 1999, he cochaired the President’s Council on Sustainable Development, a group of public- and private-sector leaders appointed by Bill Clinton. He played a key role in the creation and success of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and its highly influential “Call to Action” on global warming.
Lash attended The Putney School, in Vermont, and received his AB from Harvard College. On graduation he joined the Peace Corps, and through that experience he met and married Eleanor Scattergood, a fellow volunteer. Together they worked on community-based development projects in the Dominican Republic; then, from the United States, they trained volunteers bound for El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
He earned an MEd and his JD from Catholic University. He began his legal career as a federal prosecutor and later became senior staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He was named Vermont Commissioner of Environmental Conservation in 1985; in 1987 was appointed Vermont Secretary of Natural Resources. In that position, he implemented innovative statutes pertaining to pollution prevention, solid-waste management, and conservation. In 1990, he was appointed director of the Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School, rated by many as the best program of its kind in the United States.
Among his honors, Lash was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics” by Ethisphere magazine (2007) and one of the world’s “Top 100 Most Influential People in Finance” by Treasury and Risk Management magazine (2005). In the same year, Rolling Stone profiled him as one of 25 “Warriors and Heroes” who were "fighting to stave off [a] planet-wide catastrophe.”