Prep the Next Generation to Untangle Our Mess

gloria larson

Photograph by David Yellen

31. Gloria Larson

President, Bentley University

When John Fish wanted to rally area schools around his Olympic dreams, he immediately reached out to Bentley University president Gloria Larson. Why not contact the bigger education brands in town first? Because Larson is viewed as one of the most engaged—and engaging—higher-ed leaders in Boston.

Trained as a lawyer, Larson has spent her peripatetic career working in both the private and public sectors, first at the FTC, then as the secretary of economic affairs in Bill Weld’s administration, then chairing the board of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority during its expansion—an endeavor she compares to the Herculean Olympic bid effort. She served as the co-chair of Deval Patrick’s transition team, and became a trusted voice in education reform.

A major strategic thinker skilled at finding common ground, Larson was tapped to helm the Waltham business college in 2007. In the eight years since, she successfully advocated for its conversion to university status, enabling Bentley to offer highly innovative graduate course work, including an advanced business degree steeped in the liberal arts. Of Bentley’s approach to business education, she says, “It’s pitch perfect for the new-normal marketplace,” which she describes as shifting toward three tenets: people, planet, and profit.

Larson now uses her position on numerous philanthropic and business boards, including Unum Group and Boston Private Financial Holdings, to foster inclusiveness. And as president of the Massachusetts Conference for Women, she spends a lot of time thinking about other ways to empower women and men to support one another. She says that in Boston, gender equity (along with racial and ethnic diversity) is “a very big issue. We have miles to go.”

View the full list of Boston’s 50 Most Powerful People.

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