Huntington F. Willard to Step Down as Marine Biological Laboratory President

March 24, 2017

Contact: Gina Hebert
(508) 717-1730;  

WOODS HOLE, MA—Huntington F. Willard has announced he will step down from his position as president and director of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) at the end of April.

Willard has held the position since January 2015, during which time he led strategic planning for MBL research and educational programs, defining research themes that represent the MBL’s greatest opportunities for distinction in the years ahead.

In a message to MBL staff and constituents, Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, and chair of the MBL Board of Trustees stated “Through Hunt’s leadership we have made progress in key areas and started initiatives that I believe will ultimately secure a bright future for the MBL and for scholars, researchers, and educators around the world for whom MBL is an important part of their professional and personal lives. The University of Chicago’s commitment to strengthening the MBL through advances aligned with both institutions’ distinctive history and culture remains steadfast.”

Until Willard’s successor is identified, University of Chicago faculty members Melina Hale and Neil Shubin will step in to co-lead the laboratory effective May 1, 2017. Hale is William Rainey Harper Professor in the University’s Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy and vice provost for academic initiatives. She is an MBL Fellow, and former Grass Foundation Fellow and MBL course instructor. Shubin is the Robert R. Bensley Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, associate dean for academic strategy in the Biological Sciences Division, and senior adviser to the president of the University for the MBL affiliation. Shubin has played a role in MBL’s Embryology Course, been a Friday Evening Lecturer, and a Whitman Center Scientist. He has also conducted research previously at the MBL.

“I wish to express my sincere appreciation to President Zimmer, the Board, and UChicago leadership for their unwavering commitment to the MBL’s future and for giving me this opportunity to contribute to this phase of the transition,” Willard said in a statement. He plans to return to his research interests in genomics and its impact on the life sciences and precision health.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery – exploring fundamental biology, understanding biodiversity and the environment, and informing the human condition through research and education. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.