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Palfrey Leaves HLS for Andover

By Caroline M. McKay, Crimson Staff Writer

Professor John G. Palfrey '94 is leaving Harvard Law School to take the position of Head of School at Phillips Academy Andover, according to announcements from both schools. Palfrey’s areas of research include Internet law, intellectual property, and international law.

Palfrey is leaving the Law School 11 years after graduating from the Law School in 2001. From 2002 to 2008, Palfrey served as executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He was appointed to the faculty in 2003, and was appointed director of the Law School’s library system in 2008.

Leading Phillips Academy will bring Palfrey intimately closer to the digital age generation he tracked in academia, according to Professor Charles R. Nesson ’60.

In 2008, Palfrey served as chair of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, which focused on child safety in the wake of expanding technology and the internet. He has also testified before Congress on child safety in the digital age. Palfrey, along with Berkman Center Executive Director Urs Gasser, published “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives,” which reflected on the first generation to grow up amid technology that characterizes the 21st century.

“From the very beginning, his focus has been on how kids learn,” Nesson said. He added that this new position would provide Palfrey with a new perspective on years of research.

“I’m sure it will infuse his work and he will learn something new coming out of it,” Nesson said.

In addition to his research about children and technology, colleagues have praised Palfrey for his transformative leadership and scholarship both at the Law School and the Berkman Center.

“John has been essential to the life of the Berkman Center,” Gasser wrote in an email statement. “His intelligence, knowledge, diplomacy, and friendship have inspired all of us.”

Palfrey will replace Head of School Barbara L. Chase at Andover. An e-mail sent to Phillips Academy students and alumni welcomed Palfrey—a graduate of Exeter Academy—to the Andover community, noting that he would be only the second Exeter graduate to lead Phillips Academy.

“John’s values align remarkably well with those of Andover, most particularly our core value of non sibi,” the e-mail read. “John is instinctively collegial and has a collaborative leadership style.”

—Staff writer Caroline M. McKay can be reached at

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