Yale President Richard Levin to Step Down in 2013

Yale’s Richard Levin to Retire After 20 Years as President
Richard Levin, president of Yale University. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Yale University President Richard C. Levin, the longest-serving leader in the Ivy League, said he will retire at the end of the current academic year.

An economist, Levin has been a member of Yale’s faculty since he received his Ph.D. at the New Haven, Connecticut, university in 1974. Levin, 65, became president in 1993.

Levin helped make Yale’s endowment -- valued at $19.4 billion in June 2011 -- the second-largest in higher education, behind Harvard University.

After completing a fundraising campaign, beginning construction on a new business school building, establishing a campus in Singapore and other endeavors, the timing was a “natural juncture,” Levin said in an interview today. Decisions about the next slate of buildings, at a cost of about $1 billion, should made by the next president, he said.

“We have a lot of big projects on the docket, a number of projects that were postponed because of the market crash: two new residential colleges, a new biology building, a science teaching facility, a new home for the drama school,” Levin said. “If we’re going to do these things, these ought to be decisions of a president who is able to be around for at least seven or eight years thereafter, to go out and raise the money to fund these projects.”

During his tenure, Levin has looked abroad and in the nearby towns of West Haven and Orange to bolster Yale’s standing.

Writing Book

“It is a source of great satisfaction to leave Yale in much stronger condition -- academically, physically, and financially -- than it was when I began in 1993,” Levin said in a statement today. “Our faculty is stronger than ever, and our deans and directors all have clear and ambitious agendas that will keep the University moving forward.”

Levin will take a sabbatical next year, and plans to write a book of reflections on higher education and economic policy, he said in the statement.

Yale will relay more information in the near future about its search for the next president, Edward P. Bass, senior fellow for the Yale Corp., the school’s governing body, said in a statement.

Levin also focused his efforts on Yale’s international presence. The school announced in March 2011 it would open a liberal arts college in Singapore with the National University of Singapore. The first class is expected to arrive in 2013.

Transformational Leader

Indra Nooyi, a Yale trustee and chief executive officer of PepsiCo Inc., said Levin has been transformational in envisioning how a university can be a leading citizen at home and abroad.

“His example has been a guide for how universities around the world can have a much greater impact,” Nooyi said in a statement.

A native of San Francisco, Levin earned an undergraduate degree at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. Before he became Yale’s president, his economics research focused on industrial organization, including studies of the deregulation of railroads, the patent system and antitrust and the competitiveness of American manufacturing. Levin is currently a director at American Express Co.

In 2007, Levin announced Yale’s purchase of a 136-acre health-care complex in West Haven formerly owned by Bayer AG, with research space, office buildings, warehouses and other facilities.

Leadership Mentor

Yale raised a record $3.89 billion in a five-year campaign that ended in June 2011. Ten donors gave gifts of $50 million or more, including a $100 million gift to make the Yale School of Music tuition free.

“Rick Levin has been both friend and mentor to me and every other colleague at the helm of colleges and universities, across the country and around the globe,” Harvard President Drew Faust said in an e-mailed statement. “Throughout his tenure at Yale he has been a tireless spokesperson for the values of scholarship, integrity, and inclusion -- values that have bettered our institutions and our sector. I will miss him.”

Yale has never been in better shape than it is now, from its physical campus to the addition of new faculty and programs, said Anthony Kronman, who served as dean of the law school for 10 years. He teaches there and in Directed Studies, interdisciplinary courses for freshmen, with Levin’s wife, Jane.

Kronman said Yale’s next president faces challenges such as strengthening the new campus in Singapore and the business school. The School Of Management opened in 1976.

Business School

“SOM is not as old as business schools at Harvard or Chicago, and it has a distinctive character of its own,” Kronman said. “I know that it has been very important to Rick that Yale have a business school of world-class caliber, equal in stature and standing to its schools of medicine and architecture and law and so on.”

Now with Yale looking for a new leader, the Ivy League, eight elite universities in the northeastern U.S., is undergoing a changing of the guard.

A new president, economist Christina Hull Paxson, took the reins at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 1. She replaced Ruth Simmons, who led the school for more than a decade.

Dartmouth College is also looking for a new leader after Jim Yong Kim left the Hanover, New Hampshire school on July 1 to run the World Bank.

Yale Culture

Levin’s tenure was unusually long for a school of Yale’s stature, and it thrived on his stability, said Raymond D. Cotton, an attorney who works with university presidents and boards of trustees on issues of compensation, leadership and governance.

His successor will need to understand the university’s culture.

“I would imagine that internal candidates will have a better chance in this particular search than most,” Cotton said. “There’s a depth of talent at Yale.”

Levin has shaped university leadership as a groomer of presidents at elite research universities.

More than a half-dozen of Yale’s former provosts under Levin have gone on to positions at the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in the U.K., Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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