Peter Barris ’74, chair of venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), was elected chair of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, effective Sept. 1.
Barris received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and earned an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Elected to the Northwestern board in 2001, Barris has served as vice chair since 2014. He served as the chair of the Presidential Search Committee, which was composed of trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni leaders. He led the creation of the Board’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee and served as its first chair between 2011 and 2016. During those early years, the committee spearheaded the establishment of The Garage. Barris remains a member of that committee as well as several others, including the executive, educational properties, investment and Northwestern Medicine committees. He previously was a member of the academic affairs and the alumni relations and development committees.
“I am proud of how far we have come as a university, and I have no doubt my fellow trustees, the faculty, students, staff and alumni share that sense of pride,” Barris said. “I am equally energized by how far we have the potential to go as an institution, and I greatly look forward to working with incoming President Rebecca Blank to realize Northwestern’s next chapter.”
Barris and his wife, Adrienne, have been generous supporters of the University throughout their lives. The Barrises spearheaded the University’s ongoing CS+X initiative — to hire an additional 20 faculty members in computer science and other areas — with a gift to endow the Peter and Adrienne Barris Chair of Computer Science, held by Samir Khuller. They endowed the merit-based Gus and Diane Chagares Music Scholarship, named for Adrienne’s parents, to help the Bienen School of Music attract and support top undergraduate student musicians. Another scholarship fund endowed by the Barrises is supporting undergraduate students who come to Northwestern from Chicago Public Schools. Other gifts from the couple have advanced the Ford Motor Company Design Center, the implementation of smart classrooms and more.
Barris serves as a member of the McCormick Advisory Council and co-chaired the Washington, D.C., Regional Campaign Committee for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. He was an honorary member of his class’s 45th reunion committee and co-chaired his 40th reunion committee. He also delivered McCormick’s 2012 convocation address.
“Peter has been a stalwart trustee for over two decades, and as one of our outstanding vice chairs, he served as an invaluable partner to me and a deft leader in the selection of Northwestern’s next president,” said J. Landis Martin ’68, ’73 JD (’02, ’08 P), chair of the Board of Trustees. “I very much look forward to the leadership he will provide to the University at this consequential time.”
Barris succeeds J. Landis Martin, who has held the position of chair of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees since September 2017 and will continue to serve on the board after stepping down as chair. During his five-year tenure as chair, Martin — a lawyer, businessperson and philanthropist — oversaw a period of University-wide growth. He supported the administration through the COVID-19 pandemic, including leading a special committee of the board.
Martin joined the Board of Trustees in 1999 and served in leadership roles on standing and ad hoc committees, including chairing the Academic Affairs Committee from 2010 to 2015 and serving as a vice chair of the board from 2015 until becoming chair in 2017. Martin has been closely involved in alumni and fundraising initiatives for Northwestern, including serving as a member and co-chair of the Campaign Steering Committee for the “We Will” Campaign. He also is a life member of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Board.
“I am grateful to have served as a vice chair during Lanny’s tenure as the leader of our Board,” Barris said. “Lanny’s dedication to the University and his exceptional leadership are without parallel.”
Before retiring and becoming chair of NEA in 2019, Barris spent 27 years at the firm — 18 of them as managing general partner. Under Barris’s direction, NEA saw tremendous success as one of the world’s largest venture capital firms. The firm has a decades-long record of advancing diversity in the venture capital industry, which has historically been dominated by men. PitchBook reported that NEA backed more women entrepreneurs than any other firm in the industry between the years 2006 and 2017. The firm also is held up as an industry example for its diverse hiring practices, with relatively large percentages of professionals who identify as women or people of color. Under Barris’s leadership, the company invested in industry-transforming technology companies including Groupon, WebMD, Salesforce.com, Workday and CareerBuilder.
Although a longtime resident of Virginia, Barris has been an active participant in the Chicago tech scene, serving on the board of P33. He also has been named to Crain’s Chicago 50 Top Tech Stars, and in 2015, the Illinois Venture Capital Association awarded him the Golder Award for his “profound and lasting contributions to the private equity industry in Illinois.” Barris also serves on the boards of the Brookings Institution and In-Q-Tel, among other boards.