Duke University president to step down in 2017

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Duke University President Richard Brodhead is stepping down in 2017. (Duke University)

Duke University President Richard H. Brodhead will step down on June 30, 2017, at the conclusion of his current term.

Brodhead revealed his plans to the Board of Trustees and the Academic Council on Thursday.

In a subsequent message to Duke faculty, staff, students and alumni, he wrote, "When I first came to Duke, I encountered a school that was clearly in the top rank of universities but that had a distinctive spirit within this group. Duke has an unusually strong sense of community, and what binds people together is a vision that Duke is still being created, still reaching for the further thing it could become ... It is Duke's nature to keep pressing to live up to its highest potential, and we have made striking progress in the past 12 years."

"With many critical initiatives nearing completion," he added, "it seems the right time for Duke to recruit a new leader to guide the next chapter of its progress. Meanwhile, there will be plenty to do in the year ahead. Nothing in a university is the work of a single person, and in the year to come, I'll look forward to chances to thank and celebrate with each of you who have helped build the Duke of today."

David Rubenstein, chairman of the university's Board of Trustees, said the Board would appoint a committee at its May meeting to begin a search for Duke's 10th president.

"But we will do so fully recognizing that Dick's vision, work ethic, intellect, and eloquence will be extraordinarily difficult to match," Rubenstein said.

Brodhead, who is also the William Preston Few Professor of English at Duke, will take a year off before returning to teaching and writing, which he called "the passions that lured me into the academic life in the first place."

In a statement, the university noted that under Brodhead's leadership, undergraduate education at Duke "has undergone a significant transformation, with new opportunities for internships, faculty-mentored research and academic collaborations such as Bass Connections projects, as well as changes in housing and student life. Brodhead also launched the signature program DukeEngage, a fully funded summer service program that has given 3,600 Duke undergraduates the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in the U.S. and in 79 countries on six continents."

Also of significance during Brodhead's presidency:

  • Two Duke faculty members won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry -- Robert Lefkowitz in 2012 and Paul Modrich in 2015 -- the first Nobel Prizes awarded for work done by Duke faculty on the Duke campus.

  • Nine undergraduates were named Rhodes Scholars.

  • Applications for undergraduate admission nearly doubled, from 16,702 in 2004 to more than 32,000 in 2016, while the Regular Decision admit rate fell to 8.7 percent.

  • Duke's athletic teams won 10 national championships while earning a 98 percent graduation rate.

  • Brodhead was named to succeed Nannerl Keohane in December 2003 and took office in July 2004.

    He came to Duke from Yale University, where he had earned three degrees, served as the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of English and American Studies, and had been dean of Yale College for 11 years, in which role he was responsible for undergraduate academic and student life.

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