Fred Bohen, longtime Rockefeller administrator, dies


Frederick M. Bohen, who was executive vice president and chief operating officer at Rockefeller for many of the years between 1990 and 2005, died March 14 at his home in Manhattan at the age of 77. During his tenure at Rockefeller, Mr. Bohen served with five university presidents and had a hand in the recruitment or promotion of 50 heads of laboratory. He oversaw nearly every aspect of university operations, including finance, plant operations, human resources, and public affairs. He also provided overall leadership for the investment of tens of millions of dollars in private gift support for infrastructure improvements, including the modernization of much of the laboratory space on the south campus and updates to the university’s power plant, electrical, and chilled water distribution systems.

Fred Bohen

“Fred Bohen was the architect of the administrative, managerial, and operational landscape of contemporary Rockefeller University,” says Marnie Imhoff, senior vice president of development. “Working in partnership with five presidents over thirteen years, he created an environment in which great science could flourish.”

Mr. Bohen’s career in academic administration began at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School in 1964. Public service took him to Washington, where he was on the White House domestic policy staff in the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, and in the Jimmy Carter administration at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the Department of Health and Human Services. In the 1970s he ran twice as a Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey. Mr. Bohen resumed academic administration in the early 1980s, first at the University of Minnesota, then at Brown University, and finally at Rockefeller.

“At the end of my term as president,” says president emeritus and Vincent and Brooke Astor Professor Emeritus Torsten Wiesel, “the budget was in balance, the longtime and newly recruited faculty were in good stead, and clear optimism for the future was in the air. This could not have happened without Fred Bohen’s clearheaded and insightful contributions to all aspects of administrative decisions.”

“His administrative vision and fiscal discipline were essential in creating the university as we know it today,” says Thomas P. Sakmar, Richard M. and Isabel P. Furlaud Professor and head of the Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Signal Transduction, who served as acting president in 2002 and 2003. “Arguably, no single person has contributed more to Rockefeller’s success in the past 25 years than Fred Bohen. Fred helped to develop and advance the careers of many spectacular university administrative leaders. His loyalty to the university and his personal integrity gave him a long-term perspective that is reflected still today in many of the administrative team members that he recruited or promoted, including Marnie Imhoff, Ginny Huffman, Alex Kogan, and Jim Lapple.”

Mr. Bohen retired from Rockefeller in 1999 but returned three years later, when Dr. Sakmar became acting president. Called upon to help lead Rockefeller through a challenging period, Mr. Bohen helped stabilize the university’s finances and restructure a capital building program that led eventually to the construction of the Collaborative Research Center. He retired for the second time in 2005.

Between stints in government and academia, Mr. Bohen worked in public television and philanthropy at WNET and the Ford Foundation. He served on various corporate and charitable boards, including the Apache Oil Company, Sallie Mae, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Polish American Freedom Foundation, and the TEAK Fellowship, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping low-income families gain admission to top high schools and colleges.

Mr. Bohen was the recipient of the David Rockefeller Award for Extraordinary Service to The Rockefeller University in 2006. He is survived by his three daughters, Shawn, Kim, and Courtney.