Welcoming Emory’s 21st President

Gregory L. Fenves began his tenure as Emory University’s 21st president on August 1 by affirming the university's most fundamental commitments.

Gregory Fenves in an interior shot before a window wearing a gray jacket, blue tie, and white shirt.

From upholding the highest quality of education for students and support for faculty excellence to advancing research discoveries, scholarship, and patient care in the service of humanity, Fenves says the mission and goals of Emory remain unwavering—even as the university navigates extraordinary new challenges.

Fenves is well aware that his arrival in Atlanta coincides with one of the most severe global crises in modern history—a pandemic that has forced sweeping changes for universities, communities, and families.

“COVID-19 has reconfigured everything—from our daily work to the world we live in. The pandemic has changed what we can do and how we educate students at a top research university,” he says. “It’s also had economic repercussions, requiring our community to make very difficult decisions. But it hasn’t changed us. It hasn’t changed Emory’s mission nor our values. It hasn’t altered our ability to achieve, transcend, and lead.”

Indeed, Fenves contends Emory is uniquely well-suited to deal with the current crisis. “I believe this university is as well prepared as any university is in the country because of the dedication of the staff and the leadership to safety, but also and especially because of the expertise of Emory Healthcare and the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, including faculty who are experts in public health in one of the top schools of public health. Across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, Emory experts are leading the way in the local, statewide, and national pandemic
response, integrating your research, teaching, and clinical missions in ways that save lives.”

Fenves arrived on campus eager to connect with the Emory community as it prepared to welcome first-year students to the fall 2020 semester. His first week included a series of socially distanced drop-in visits with faculty, staff, students, researchers, and frontline health care workers, and appearances at two community forums. He has since enjoyed numerous opportunities to share dialogue with the Emory community as the semester advanced and has started to work with faculty, staff, and students to build a strategic vision for the university moving forward.

A civil engineer by training, Fenves earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree and PhD from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. He began his academic career as an assistant professor in the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s civil engineering department in 1984. In 1988, Fenves returned to UC Berkeley, where he was on the faculty for 20 years and became an international expert on structural engineering for earthquake preparedness.

He returned to UT Austin in 2008 to become dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering, was recruited to the position of provost at UT Austin in 2013, and in 2015 was appointed president. Fenves was elected in 2014 to the National Academy of Engineering, the highest recognition for an engineer in the United States.

Fenves is married to Carmel Martinez Fenves, a textile artist and former small business owner. They have two adult daughters, a son-in-law, and one granddaughter, all of whom live in Austin.

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