Local News

Duke Officially Names New President

Posted December 15, 2003 9:22 a.m. EST

— There is a new leader at Duke University.

Richard H. Brodhead, dean of Yale College and the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of English at Yale University, has been elected Duke's ninth president.

Peter M. Nicholas, chair of Duke's board of trustees, made the announcement Friday. The 56-year-old Brodhead was approved by the trustees Thursday night.

Brodhead will succeed Nannerl O. Keohane July 1, 2004. Keohane announced last February that she planned to step down after 11 years in the presidency to return to teaching and research.

Brodhead was introduced to the Duke community Friday morning at a press conference in the Rare Book Room of the Perkins Library, on Duke's West Campus. He was accompanied by his wife, Cynthia, and their son, Daniel.

Nicholas called Brodhead the ideal person to lead Duke into the next stage of its history.

"Dick is a scholar with a deep commitment to undergraduate and graduate education, a proven and effective administrator and fundraiser who understands how research universities work, and an eloquent spokesman about the central role of higher education in American life," Nicholas said. "As one of his faculty colleagues at Yale put it: 'His performance is brilliant. Students love him. The faculty trust him. The alumni are in awe of him.'

"Duke's trustees are confident that the qualities that have led Dick Brodhead to be so revered in New Haven will also serve him well as our next president."

Brodhead, meanwhile, called Duke a "special place" whose brightest days lie ahead.

"I am tremendously excited to join a university that has already established itself in the top rank of institutions, yet is still so up-and-coming," Brodhead said. "Duke is a school with a taste for excellence, the energy and optimism to aspire to it, the dynamism and lightness of foot to actually make required changes, and the ability to avoid complacency in the face of accomplishment.

"Duke's core values are quite close to my own, and I will represent them with real dedication. I also feel the institution would welcome change in the places where I see room for growth. If I can be a part of making a very good university even better, it will be a great satisfaction."

Brodhead said he has had other tempting invitations to consider leaving Yale but always has declined. He called Duke's allure "overwhelming.

"Duke is a special place," he said. "I know I'm facing an immense amount of new learning and challenge, but I expect that to be a pleasure as well. I am looking forward to becoming both a Blue Devil and a part of the vibrant Durham community."

Robert K. Steel, vice chairman of the board of trustees, led the 19-member search committee of trustees, faculty, students, staff and alumni. He said Brodhead was the committee's unanimous choice after an intensive review of some 200 candidates.

"It was striking to us how closely Dick's background and interests match the values and aspirations of Duke University," Steel said. "The responsibilities of his deanship at Yale are unusually broad. He is a first-rate scholar whose studies range from the classics of nineteenth century American literature to the works of African American and Southern writers. At Yale, he has helped lead important advances in the sciences and engineering and environmental studies, and he recently chaired Yale's first undergraduate curriculum review in three decades."

Steel added that Brodhead also sees "exciting opportunities for synergy between our world-class medical center and other programs across Duke.

"We heard from many people who know Dick and saw first-hand during our conversations with him that he is remarkably eloquent and well versed in the key issues affecting higher education," Steel said, "a careful listener, a thoughtful strategist, an intellectual of great breadth, a leader and a consensus builder of the first rank.

"And he has a wonderful sense of humor, which is a prerequisite for a university president."

Brodhead showed that humor Friday, quoting Huckleberry Finn during his press conference and describing a series of funny coincidences that may also have played a role in his coming to Duke.

One of the coincidences: Brodhead said he came in for a final interview last Friday, had to fly back to Washington and take a long cab ride home. The cab driver, an Afghan immigrant, asked Brodhead what he did. Brodhead said he was a professor, but did not say where. The cab driver said: 'Ah. It's my dream for my daughters to go to Duke.'"

Brodhead has been dean of Yale College since 1993, serving as the college's faculty chair and chief administrator. He shares oversight of the faculty appointments process with the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and plays a central role in all tenure appointments and decisions in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

As dean, Brodhead also has leadership responsibility for undergraduate education, housing and social life, student services, undergraduate admissions and financial aid.

Brodhead was the first Yale graduate in more than two decades to be named to the deanship, which he has held longer than all but two others in Yale's 302-year history. Brodhead earned three degrees from the university -- his bachelor's degree in English in 1968, followed two years later by a master's degree and then, in 1972, by a Ph.D. in English.