Benno Schmidt is among the world’s leading innovators in primary, secondary and tertiary education. He has served as president of Yale University, dean of Columbia University Law School and CEO and chairman of Edison Schools (now EdisonLearning), a pioneer in the nation’s charter school movement.
Benno currently chairs the board of trustees of the City University of New York, the largest urban public university in the world, with some 500,000 students. CUNY has undergone an academic renaissance under Benno’s leadership. Before joining the CUNY Board, he led Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s task force on revitalizing the CUNY system. He also chairs the board of the non-profit Council for Aid to Education, a group that helps colleges and universities with accountability and academic planning.
During his presidency at Yale, from 1986 to 1992, Benno was known for his outspoken defense of freedom of expression and liberal education. During his tenure, Yale’s endowment grew from $1.7 billion to nearly $3 billion, the highest rate of growth among the major endowed private universities in this country. Benno presided over one of the largest building programs in Yale’s history; he fashioned a model partnership between the university and the city of New Haven; and he helped build a number of new interdisciplinary programs, especially in environmental sciences and policy and in international studies. Benno oversaw Yale College and 11 graduate and professional schools, with approximately 2,000 faculty members; 7,000 staff members; some 11,000 students; and operating and capital budgets of approximately $900 million.
At Columbia, Benno became, at age 29, one of the youngest tenured professors in the University’s history. Benno also served as law clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Benno recently received national recognition as the recipient of the sixth annual Philip Merrill Award of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) for outstanding contributions to liberal arts education.