Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Names New President and CEO

News   Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Names New President and CEO
Debora L. Spar will become the institution’s first female president.
Debora L. Spar
Debora L. Spar Steven DeCanio

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City has appointed Debora L. Spar, Barnard College president and former Harvard Business School professor, as its next president and chief executive officer, board chairman Katherine Farley announced November 16.

Spar will join Lincoln Center as its 10th president in mid-March 2017. In the interim, Katherine Farley will continue to oversee and work with a transition team of senior management, led by chief operating officer Liza Parker, established after Jed Bernstein’s departure in April.

As manager of the Lincoln Center campus, LCPA provides campus-wide services and fundraising support for the 11 resident organizations: Lincoln Center Theater, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, School of American Ballet, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

Spar, who will become Lincoln Center’s first female president, will “steer the institution forward as it builds on its mission to bring the best of the performing arts to the broadest possible audience, and embarks upon a comprehensive renovation of David Geffen Hall,” according to a press statement. The new hall will represent the next and final piece of the recently completed, $1.2 billion transformation of the Lincoln Center campus.

Spar was elected president of Barnard College in July 2008, and her nearly nine-year tenure is recognized for stimulating substantial academic and financial growth. Under Spar’s leadership, student applications rose by more than 50 percent, and the college’s endowment nearly doubled.

“Debora's vision and experience in the arts, education, and business make her the ideal choice to lead Lincoln Center at this exciting time,” said Farley, board chairman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, in a statement. “She has been a transformative president at Barnard College, expanding their arts curriculum, successfully completing major construction projects and galvanizing financial support.”

Spar is credited with an arts renaissance on the Barnard campus, as demonstrated by the creation of a number of successful programs, including the Orzeck Distinguished Artist-in-Residence program, which brought artists such as Wendy Whelan and Twyla Tharp to the college; the Athena Film Festival; the Writer-in-Residence program; and the International Artist series. Prior to her time at Barnard, Spar was a professor at Harvard Business School for 17 years and served as senior associate dean for Faculty Research and Development.

“I am honored by the opportunity to lead this iconic institution, and look forward to working with the talented and accomplished team and resident organizations at Lincoln Center,” stated Spar.

In an email to Barnard students and faculty, shared with, Spar added, “As I'm sure you can imagine, this was a tough decision to make, and to announce. I love Barnard — its students, faculty, staff, and alumnae — and had fully intended to remain on campus until June of 2018, when my contract expires. But this new role at Lincoln Center will give me an incredible opportunity to engage with the broader communities of New York City, and to think creatively about the future of one of our nation's most precious assets: the performing arts.”

“Debora is a true champion of the arts, and her keen intelligence is complemented by an innovative spirit and contemporary sensibility,” said Twyla Tharp, founder of Twyla Tharp Dance. “Her expert communication skills with the younger generation, honed over her years as a teacher, also make her an optimal voice to carry Lincoln Center's message to future audiences.”

Spar was elected to the Academy of Arts and Science in 2011, and serves as a director of Goldman Sachs and a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She holds a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University, and received her Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

“Debora impressed us all, bringing the right set of skills and leadership traits to this demanding position,” said Ann Ziff, chairman of the Metropolitan Opera, Trustee of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and member of the search committee for a new President.


LCPA serves three primary roles: presenter of artistic programming, national leader in arts and education and community engagement, and manager of the Lincoln Center campus.

Click Here to Shop for Theatre
Merchandise in the Playbill Store
Today’s Most Popular News: