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Bentley University President Brent Chrite with Flex the university mascot

Q&A with President Chrite

John McElhenny

President E. LaBrent Chrite took office on June 1, 2021, becoming the ninth president in Bentley's 104-year history. How did he get into education? What's the best advice he ever received? What does he do on a day off? Get to know President Chrite in this "icebreaker" Q&A.

Now that it's official, Welcome to Bentley! What interested you about a career in education? 

I needed to commit myself to something that would allow me to serve others while being intellectually and professionally fulfilled. For me, that space has been in both healthcare and education. While the earlier part of my career was more in line with my graduate work in public health, my ultimate calling is higher education, and my journey in this space has exceeded any of my expectations. The presidency at Bentley represents the culmination of that journey.  

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?

Phyllis and I will celebrate our 35th anniversary this August. We got engaged after six weeks of meeting one another.  

What can you tell us about your family?  

Collage of Brent Chrite and family
President Chrite with his family

Our family is pretty much the focus of our universe. We have three amazing kids, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and five grandsons including a set of twins -- Elijah (8), Elrie III (2), Korbin and Kameron (5 months) and Miles (2 months). Our oldest, Elrie (31), is in global logistics/supply chain with Toyota and our daughter Adriana (27) is a nurse, though she’s now focused on raising her boys. Our youngest, Jordan (21), is graduating later this month from the Daniels College at the University of Denver and has elected to join Teach for America after graduation.  

What does a day off look like for you? 

As Phyllis will attest, I don’t really take days off. However, on days when I'm not in the office or otherwise working, I enjoy spending time with Phyllis, reading, exercising, focusing on board work (corporate and not-for-profit), playing mediocre golf and traveling.  

You’ve traveled around the world. What was the most interesting place?

There are two that stand out: Rwanda and Afghanistan. I was in Rwanda in 1998 on behalf of the World Bank Group, four years after the end of the genocide. The Afghanistan project was on behalf of the Department of State from 2016 to 2018. Both of these countries had to recover – with differing levels of success – from profound and consequential levels of strife and violence. In Afghanistan, war and national trauma have regretfully been part of the landscape and national psyche since the start of the 20th century. In Rwanda, the 1994 genocide was a much more “bounded” but nonetheless cataclysmic event in the nation’s history. What struck me about each of these countries is that their citizens demonstrated a strength, resilience and generosity largely defined by their ability to forgive that belies their national condition. These countries also stick out to me because they represent opposite ends of the spectrum as to how a sound policy environment and emerging market economy when embraced can transform a society (in Rwanda) and how the absence of such an environment can so profoundly mitigate its growth (Afghanistan).  

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I was educated in Detroit public schools. There were a lot of challenges back then and while I worked hard, I was not a great student. I will never forget my social studies teacher telling me at age 15 that it was time for me to begin developing my own personal philosophies at that stage of my development. Those words resonated deeply with me and served as a catalyst. I still think of them to this day.  

Is there a business you wish you'd started? 

That has never been my passion. My passion is in creating entrepreneurial ecosystems, experiences and enabling environments that support students and others in the creation of their own enterprises.  

We look forward to seeing you around campus. What would you like the community to call you? 

I expect to get to a point with my colleagues on campus where they can refer to me in a way that makes them comfortable. I can be "Brent" or "President Chrite," depending on the circumstances.   

A Leader who Believes Business can Change Lives for the Better