International House Welcomes Sebastian Fries, PhD, as New President & CEO
Seasoned global executive to take the helm in early May
NEW YORK (April 2, 2021) – International House announced today that Sebastian Fries, PhD, whose career spans more than 20 years of global health care, social impact, and academic experience, has been tapped as its new President and CEO, effective May 3, 2021. Fries takes the helm at a critical time for the organization, as more university students begin to return to New York City and as International House looks forward to emerging from the pandemic and growing, fostering, and supporting its diverse community of emerging leaders.
Born and raised in Germany, Fries first came to the United States as a study abroad student. His firsthand experience as an international graduate student at Harvard University, paired with decades of valuable experience across the non-profit, philanthropic, academic, and social enterprise landscape, led the Board of Trustees to consider him ideally suited to lead International House, an independent non-profit that enables graduate students from around the world and the United States to live and learn together in a challenging and supportive residential community in New York City.
Fries succeeds Brian H. Polovoy, Esq., a longtime Board of Trustees member who stepped in to serve as Interim President in October 2020. Polovoy applauded the selection of Fries, whose appointment was confirmed by the Board by a unanimous vote on Tuesday.
“In our search for a new President, we sought an exceptional individual with considerable talents and professional experience that would fit well with our mission and our culture. In Sebastian, we have found a passionate advocate for our core values of respect, empathy, and moral courage and someone whose leadership vision is one of community and shared responsibility. He is committed to the quality of the residents’ experience and will ensure that their voices are valued and empowered,” said Susan L. Stupin, member of the International House Board of Trustees and Chair of the Search Committee for the new President. “Sebastian brings to International House a strong record of successfully building teams and forging creative partnerships that expand awareness, understanding, and support of organizations, with an ultimate focus on increasing impact. While the past year has been challenging for our residents, we continue to be impressed and inspired by their resilience and their commitment to our values. We know that they, and the entire I-House family, will be inspired by Sebastian’s leadership.”
Ms. Stupin and the Search Committee engaged in a thorough and extensive search over the past six months with the assistance of global executive search firm Spencer Stuart. The Committee reviewed a rich and diverse candidate pool and was able to evaluate a number of exceptionally strong candidates. They also sought suggestions of potential candidates from the broader I-House community, including its global alumni network.
“Sebastian has the creativity, passion, vision, and leadership that we need as we – like so many of our colleagues across academia and non-profits – learn from the challenges of COVID-19 and consider what it means to build more nimble and responsive organizations. I am thrilled to welcome him to our community and am eager to work closely with him to prepare and empower students and alumni to make a difference across the globe,” said Board Chair Amb. Frank G. Wisner. “On behalf of the entire Board, I also want to thank Brian Polovoy for his unwavering commitment to International House and the people we serve. Brian stepped in amidst a global health crisis, and his strong, consistent leadership has been essential in getting us to this moment.”
Among other experience, Fries previously served as the Chief Giving Officer at TOMS, as Senior Director of Global Access at Pfizer, and, most recently, as the Executive Director of Corporate Partnerships at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
“Students and academics from all over the world come to study, learn, and grow at International House. At a time when too many people are quick to reject those with different ideas or experiences, that spirit of inclusivity and cross-cultural exchange is more important than ever,” said Sebastian Fries. “For nearly a century, International House has recognized that true collaboration and leadership proliferates when people embrace and live core values like mutual respect, empathy and moral courage. I am so proud and excited to help champion our powerful mission as President and CEO of this respected and storied institution.”
Fries and his wife, Kristen, live in New York with their two daughters, Isabelle and Carolina.