Harold T. Shapiro received his bachelor's degree from McGill University in 1956, and his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University in 1964. Shapiro was a member of the University of Michigan faculty in the department of economics from 1964 to 1988 and served as a research scientist at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations and at the Institute of Public Policy Studies. In 1977 he was named vice president for academic affairs and chairman of the Committee on Budget Administration. He also served as chairman of the executive board of the University of Michigan Hospitals. From 1980-1988 he was president of the University of Michigan and chairman of its board of regents. From 1988-2003 he served as president of Princeton University.
In July 1996, Shapiro was appointed by President Clinton to chair the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, which has issued six major reports, including Cloning Human Beings in June 1997. From 1990 to 1992, Shapiro served as a member of President Bush's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He chaired the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Employer-Based Health Benefits whose report, Employment and Health Benefits: A Connection at Risk, was published in March 1993. Along with William G. Bowen, his predecessor as President of Princeton, Shapiro edited Universities and Their Leadership (Princeton University Press, 1998).
Shapiro's professional activities include memberships in the Conference Board Inc. and The Bretton Woods Committee. He is a trustee of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, member of the Institute of Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences