An Evening With President Monaco

On April 16, current and prospective students alike gathered in Barnum 008 for “An Evening with President Monaco.” Organized by the Freshman and Sophomore class councils, the event aimed to trace President Monaco’s winding career path that ultimately led him to Tufts.

President Monaco began by talking of his early days as a young boy in the suburbs of Delaware. He described an incident that was in equal parts both entertaining and horrifying that included his alcoholic teacher. He recalled how the teacher would often pass out in the middle of class, leaving the students helpless and confused. In this situation, for over a year, President Monaco would take charge and teach the class until such a time that the teacher regained consciousness. He described this as a formative experience that brought forth his leadership qualities.

As he moved on to high school, President Monaco’s father was one of the many workers rendered unemployed by the recession at the time. This was a great setback to his family and forced his mother to work, as well as for him to take a second job. When an aunt with Type 2 Diabetes was blinded by the disease, President Monaco moved into the city to care for her. He described the difficulties of navigating an unsafe neighborhood and how the responsibility of his aunt only made him a more confident and capable leader.

However, all his work paid off as he went on to attend Princeton University as an undergraduate. Here, at a class called “Brain and Behavior” he discovered his interest for neuroscience.  He even worked at a research laboratory for free and paid his way by painting his professor’s house. President Monaco stressed the importance of a liberal arts education that allows you to explore different areas of interest. This, he said, was how he stumbled across his own passion for neuroscience. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he attended Harvard Medical School. Here, he was introduced to genetics and completed his PhD with a geneticist.

Soon after leaving Harvard, President Monaco moved to London to continue research in the field of research. Here he was one of the first to become involved with a research institute at Oxford. Soon, he was entrusted with the position of director of the institute. It was here that the leadership skills he had since childhood really shined. After nine years at the institute, President Monaco took the position of Pro Vice Chancellor at Oxford University. Finally, he decided to take his talents across the pond to the United States. He wanted to take on a new challenge and stated that the position at Tufts seemed to have been “made for him.”

This event was a great opportunity for students to get to know more about President Monaco. His talk was followed by a lively question and answer session during which Monaco answered all of the students’ questions, ranging from the differences between his experiences in Europe and the U.S. to his hobbies (he enjoys swimming, reading and tweeting!). The event was followed by a dessert reception where the President continued to have conversations with current and prospective students.

The event was held at a very appropriate time, on the eve of the first of three Jumbo Days. It showcased how truly accessible the faculty, including the President, is at Tufts. It also gave everyone great insight into how President Monaco successfully navigated a winding career path to achieve all that he has.