University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger has accepted an offer to take over the top post at Columbia University, The Michigan Daily has learned.

Paul Wong
University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger, shown here testifying in Lansing earlier this year, has accepted an offer to become Columbia”s new president.<br><br>FILE PHOTO

Columbia”s presidential search committee on Monday recommended Bollinger to succeed the university”s 18th president, George Rupp, who is stepping down next summer.

University of Michigan Regent Andrea Fisher Newman told the Daily last night that Bollinger indicated to the regents that this academic year would be his last in Ann Arbor.

“My understanding from talking to one of the other regents is that he told us he was going to Columbia,” said Newman (R-Ann Arbor).

“We knew it was coming for some time,” she said. “My colleagues and I have received calls from the members of the Columbia search committee, so I was aware that this was very serious.”

A member of the Columbia search committee confirmed yesterday that the committee voted Monday to recommend Bollinger to the university”s trustees. The source said all committee members were instructed to refer questions to committee chair Henry King. King did not return several messages left at his home and office yesterday.

“After we voted yesterday, we decided to leave everything to our chair,” the committee member said.

Columbia”s trustees could approve Bollinger for the job at their scheduled meeting later this week.

This is not the first time Bollinger has been sought after by the Ivy League. He has been rumored to be a top candidate for Columbia”s presidency since March, when he was one of three finalists for Harvard University”s top job but was passed over by the university”s search committee in favor of former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.

Bollinger”s decision to leave the University of Michigan comes at a time when it is involved in numerous multi-million dollar development projects including the $700 million Life Sciences Initiative and a search for a permanent provost. With the pending departure of Bollinger and the provost position still vacant since Nancy Cantor left this summer, Newman said the regents must act hastily.

Their next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19, but Newman said, “I would propose that we meet sooner.” When they meet next, the regents will likely begin searching for an interim president.

While Bollinger”s decision to leave will undoubtedly be viewed by many as a loss, Newman said she is confident his departure will not cripple the University.

“Michigan is bigger that one individual, and I wish Lee well and good luck, but we have tremendous people on this campus that could fill some big shoes. I”m really not concerned at all with the path that”s been set,” Newman said.

Bollinger was attending an event last night in Midland and could not be reached for comment. University spokeswoman Julie Peterson declined to comment on Bollinger”s behalf.

“I can”t do anything until their process concludes and they make whatever announcement they”re going to do,” Peterson said. “I can”t speculate on their process.”

University of Michigan Regents Larry Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills), Rebecca McGowan (D-Ann Arbor) and Olivia Maynard (D-Goodrich) said they did not want to discuss the issue when reached at their homes last night.

“Until it all becomes official, I”m really not comfortable making any comment,” Maynard said.

Most University officials were not aware of the fact Bollinger was being so closely considered until Monday when the Daily and the Columbia Daily Spectator, the New York City school”s campus newspaper, published reports indicating he was a finalist for the job. Bollinger is widely regarded on campus as someone who consults only with a few close confidants before announcing major decisions.

It was no surprise, therefore, that yesterday many of the University”s highest ranking executives were not yet privy to Bollinger”s decision.

Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Gil Omenn said he did not know Bollinger had any plans to accept the Columbia position.

“I very much enjoy working with President Bollinger,” Omenn said. “I will respect whatever he chooses to do.”

University General Counsel Marvin Krislov, reached in his office yesterday afternoon, responded with a “no comment” when informed Bollinger had accepted the job, and added that it wasn”t his business to know what the president planned to do.

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