Bill Purcell has spent more than 30 years in public service, law and higher education. During his eight-year tenure as mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tenn., the city saw unprecedented economic expansion, an increase in metro school funding of more than 50 percent, and the development and preservation of more than 26,000 affordable housing units. He was elected to his second term as mayor by a record-setting 84.8 percent of the vote. Purcell’s accomplishments as a civic leader earned him “Public Official of the Year” honors in 2006 by Governing magazine.
Following his service as mayor, Purcell was a Harvard University Institute of Politics Fellow in 2007. He then served as founding and interim dean of the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs at Tennessee State University before returning to the Institute of Politics as director, and a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. A decade earlier he was founder and director of the Child and Family Policy Center at Vanderbilt University, a nationally recognized center building a bridge between academic research, politics, and best practices to benefit children and their families.
In December 2009, Purcell was appointed by Harvard University President Drew Faust as co-chair of the Work Team for Allston and now serves as special advisor on Allston. In these roles, he recommends strategies for achieving a cohesive academic and learning campus environment situated in Allston, Mass.
Purcell was elected to five terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives, serving as majority leader from 1990 to 1996. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Hamilton College and his law degree at Vanderbilt University School of Law, where he has been honored as a Distinguished Alumnus. A returning Chautauqua lecturer, Purcell spoke in the 2007 week on “21st Century Cities.”
As Mayor of Nashville (1999–2007), Bill Purcell oversaw the city’s unprecedented economic expansion. During his tenure, Nashville was ranked the number one city for corporate headquarters and twice ranked as the hottest city in America for expansion and business relocation. Purcell has had a long relationship with Harvard University including a stint as Director of the Institute of Politics.