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Lee Bollinger was born on April 30, 1946, in Santa Rosa, California. He received a B.S. from the University of Oregon in 1968 and a J.D. from Columbia University in 1971.
Bollinger joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School as an assistant professor in 1973. He rose to associate professor in 1976, full professor in 1979, and was appointed Dean of the Law School in 1987. Bollinger left Michigan for a brief time when he was named provost and professor of government at Dartmouth College in 1994. He returned to Michigan in February 1997 as the twelfth president of the University of Michigan. He stepped down in December 2001, after accepting the presidency of Columbia University.
A noted First Amendment scholar, Bollinger's publications include The Tolerant Society: Freedom of Speech and Extremist Speech in America (Oxford University Press, 1986) and Images of a Free Press (University of Chicago Press, 1991). Bollinger and his wife Jean Magnano, an artist, have two children.