Harvard University has named Lawrence S Bacow, whose mother was a survivor of Auschwitz and whose father’s family fled the pogroms of eastern Europe, as its president.
Mr Bacow, 66, was the president of neighbouring Tufts University for a decade, where he had a mezuzah on the front of the president’s residence.
The lawyer and economist, whose academic focus was environmental policy, said his family’s journey highlighted the power of education in social mobility.
Mr Bacow said after Sunday’s announcement: “My parents came to this country with literally nothing. I wouldn’t be here if this country was not open to people like my parents at the time.
“I wouldn’t be here if my father hadn’t had the opportunity to get a college education.”
His father’s family fled anti-Jewish violence in Minsk, Belarus, before the start of the Second World War, arriving in the United States shortly after.
Mr Bacow’s mother, the only member of her family to survive Auschwitz, arrived in Brooklyn aged 19.
The new president received his undergraduate degree from MIT and has a law degree and doctorate from Harvard.
Prior to leading Tufts, he was chancellor of MIT, where he also spent 24 years on the faculty.
Mr Bacow is the third Jewish Harvard president of the last four, will take over from Drew Gilpin Faust, the first woman to hold the position, in June.