David Helfand Assumes University Presidency

The Academy member is named the first president of Quest University in Canada.

Published April 16, 2012

David J. Helfand has assumed the position of president at Quest University in Canada. Helfand became a Founding Tutor at Quest, a nonprofit, secular liberal arts and sciences institution with a focus on undergraduate education, when he took a leave from his faculty position at Columbia University during 2007. For the past three years, he has led Quest on an interim basis, much of the time while commuting to New York. The university graduated its first class in April 2011.

"We are delighted that David has agreed to be Quest's president," says Ian Worland, Quest's Board Chair. "He is totally committed to the Quest vision, and his combination of administrative and academic leadership skills will serve us well in the coming years."

Helfand was first engaged by the founders of Quest in 2005 when they learned of his successful efforts to add science to Columbia's core curriculum. "I have been lecturing at Columbia for a third of a century," says Helfand, who has won several teaching awards there including the University-wide Presidential Award, "but I feel I only began truly teaching when I came to Quest. Here, the students, the faculty, the staff, the architecture, and the institution's organization are all focused on one goal: providing a life-changing education that will produce graduates who are international in outlook, skilled in communication, imbued with quantitative reasoning abilities, inherently trans-disciplinary in their approach to problems, technologically literate, instinctively collaborative, and engaged in their local and global communities."

In 2011, Helfand was elected president of the American Astronomical Society, the professional organization of astronomers, astrophysicists, and planetary scientists in North America, a post he will hold concurrently with his appointment at Quest.