The head of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences is stepping down following allegations she had embellished her resume.

In a letter to its members sent out Thursday, the Academy said Leslie Berlowitz is resigning after 17 years at the helm of the Cambridge-based honorary society. She will receive a one-time payment of $475,000. 

Last month, Berlowitz took paid leave from her post while a Boston law firm investigated her academic record. The Boston Globe reported that Berlowitz claimed to have a doctorate from New York University, and misrepresented her work history while applying for several grants.

Founded in 1780 by John Adams, the Academy is one the country’s oldest honorary societies, researching independent policy and bringing together business and government leaders to discuss national and global issues.

It is a very important academic institution that Berlowitz seems to have seriously mismanaged, said University of California Berkeley history professor David Hollinger. 

“The real culprits are the academic big shots who should have managed her better,” Hollinger said in a phone interview. “She has a lot of talent - a lot of energy. She’s done a lot of good for the Academy, but she’s usurped a lot of power and cultivated a bunch of apparatchiks. And as a result things have gone awry.”

Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education at Harvard, said higher education officials tend to claim a certain level of respect from the rest of society.

“We have to earn that,” Gardner said. “It isn’t something we can have just because we have initials after our names or because we’re elected to an honorary society.”

“This is bad for the capital ‘A’ academy – the American Academy of Arts and Sciences – but it’s also bad for the small ‘a’ academy, namely people who are in scholarship and learning all over the country.”

Berlowitz will step down on July 31.

The chairman of the board said the Academy will begin its search for a new president immediately.

AAAS Leslie C. Berlowitz Resigns 7.25.13