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Yale University Appoints Provost Peter Salovey as President

Courtesy Yale University
Courtesy Yale University

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Yale University named Provost Peter Salovey as its 23rd president to replace Richard C. Levin, who announced his retirement less than three months ago.

Salovey, a psychologist who earned a Ph.D. from the Ivy League school in 1986, will begin June 30 of next year, the New Haven, Connecticut-based school said yesterday in a statement. Salovey, 54, has served as provost, or chief academic officer, since 2008.

Yale is the first of three Ivy League schools with open presidencies to announce a new leader. Provosts under Levin, who has led Yale for almost two decades, have gone on to become presidents at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in the U.K.

“Peter brings a profound understanding of Yale and great ambitions for advancing the university in the years ahead,” Edward P. Bass, the senior corporation fellow who runs the school’s governing board, said in the statement. “These personal qualities, combined with his significant leadership experience, his stature as a scholar, and his deep knowledge of and devotion to Yale, make him the best person to lead Yale well into the 21st century.”

150 Candidates

Yale said its 12-member search committee, which included Indra Nooyi, chief executive officer of PepsiCo Inc., identified and considered more than 150 candidates before deciding on Salovey, an insider with three degrees from the school.

Among the first issues he plans to address is exploring teaching with online tools, not necessarily through open online courses, but exploring how students learn, Salovey said today in an interview.

“We’re at a moment where we can rethink how to improve the educational side of Yale’s mission by taking advantage of what is available online,” he said in an interview. That may include “freeing up the professor to interact in a close way with students while they watch lecture material as homework online.”

Students welcomed the appointment because of Salovey’s open manner and willingness to engage with students, said Grace Bang, a junior economics major who has met him at university functions.

Accessible Leader

“It is sometimes very difficult for the Yale president to be heavily involved in students’ lives,” Bang said. “But I think Salovey will be very present and involved and approachable in undergrad life.”

Salovey said he plans to continue being accessible to students, faculty and staff. One of his tools is playing bass in the Professors of Bluegrass band, where his strategy is to find students and faculty who are better musicians than he is, he said.

Alumni also expressed approval of Salovey’s appointment.

“The board made a terrific choice,” said Roland W. Betts, a 1968 Yale College alumnus who served as a trustee of the Yale Corp. for 12 years, including senior fellow, or chairman, from 2003 to 2011. He is founder and chairman of Chelsea Piers LP. “He’s a very respected scholar. I would have been most unhappy if Peter Salovey wasn’t named president.”

Salovey came to the university as a graduate student in 1981 and has had three decades of academic and administrative experience, serving as chair of an academic department, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and dean of Yale College, according to the school.

Emotional Intelligence

With John D. Mayer, Salovey helped develop the idea of “emotional intelligence,” the theory that just as people have a wide range of intellectual abilities, they also have a wide range of measurable emotional skills that profoundly affect their thinking and action.

In Salovey’s research on health behavior, he investigated the effectiveness of health promotion messages in persuading people to change risky behaviors relevant to cancer and HIV/AIDS.

While a Yale student, Salovey served as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate from 1983 to 1984. He joined the Yale faculty in 1986 and has served as chairman of the psychology department from 2000 to 2003, as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for the next year, and dean of Yale College from 2004 to 2008, the year he became provost.

President Vacancies

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

Princeton University’s Shirley Tilghman announced in September she would retire after leading the school since 2001.

Salovey wasn’t the only new leader of a top school to be announced yesterday.

University of California President Mark G. Yudof said Nicholas B. Dirks, Columbia University’s executive vice president and dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, will lead the University of California, Berkeley as its 10th chancellor beginning on June 1 of next year.

Yale is the second-richest university in higher education with an endowment of $19.3 billion as of June 30. Its 4.7 percent gain on investments is the second-highest in the Ivy League for the fiscal year after Dartmouth.

Alumni of the school, founded in 1701, include former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, an alumnus of the law school. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also a law school graduate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at

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