President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

John Palfrey

John Palfrey is president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the nation’s largest philanthropies. He served as a founding member of Data & Society’s Board of Directors from 2013 to 2017.

Prior to joining the MacArthur Foundation, Palfrey served as head of school at Phillips Academy, Andover, the only school of its kind to maintain need-blind admissions. During his tenure, the number of faculty members of color doubled, and the student body grew more diverse. He also oversaw the creation of the Tang Institute at Andover, which seeks to reform and democratize excellent teaching and learning.

Palfrey was the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. Additionally, from 2002 to 2008, he served as executive director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. He is founding board chair of the Digital Public Library of America, and the former board chair of LRNG, a nonprofit launched and supported by MacArthur. Palfrey currently serves on the board of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

An educator, author, and legal scholar, Palfrey has published extensively on how young people learn in a digital era, as well as on the effects of new technologies on society at large. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education, and Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age.