When Hunt Lambert presided over Harvard Extension School’s commencement as dean of the Division of Continuing Education in June, an important link was completed. He awarded his mother, Joan, the bachelor’s degree she earned at the Harvard Extension School 41 years before but never picked up. He understands the demands on Extension students, he says, because he was the child of a parent spending evenings in classes, and he worked full time and taught evening courses for a dozen years in Colorado.
Lambert’s early education in Dover, Massachusetts, was fettered by what he calls massive dyslexia, yet he excelled at Colorado College, earning a degree in business in 1980. He soon joined a hydropower company, where his duties ranged from lobbying to building computer systems that optimized engineering design. He also identified his career goal: seizing opportunities that exist when technology, public policy, and markets are changing rapidly.
His next step was to learn more about technology and management. “I came to MIT because I view technology as a key enabler to bring about change, and Sloan had the very best program,” he says.
After studying at Sloan, he spent 15 years building computer, data, wireless, and cable TV businesses. At US West, he held a series of executive positions, lived in London, worked in 20 countries, and logged 1.5 million air miles to manage global projects.
In 1995, he left industry to start a consulting practice in Colorado and began teaching at Colorado State University. From 2000 until he arrived at Harvard in 2013, he was an academic entrepreneur—founding the CSU Global Campus, an online university serving 6,000 students; creating an entrepreneurship center that led to 15 startups; and leading rapid expansion of the continuing-education division.
At Harvard, he is promoting the use of active-learning and online tools, such as HarvardX courses, to broaden access to a Harvard education at an affordable price. He wants to help others improve their career options through education just as Harvard Extension transformed the life of his mother, who went on to earn an advanced degree and become an author.
“My single passion now is to drive all of us continuing-education providers to serve the 20 million people in the U.S. who need to be reëducated to participate in the knowledge economy, and their two billion global peers,” Lambert says.
Lambert lives in Cambridge and Colorado, where his wife, Kelly, is an attorney. Their sons, Cei, 26, and Hunter, 22, are both students.