Lee Bollinger will step down from his post as University president at the end of the semester, when Dean B. Joseph White will take over as interim president, the University Board of Regents has announced.
The regents on Friday officially appointed White, a Business School professor who ended a decade-long tenure as dean this summer, to temporarily lead the University while a search process gets under way to select a successor to Bollinger.
Although the vote to appoint White to the interim presidency was officially unanimous, two of the eight regents originally voted against choosing White as the interim president because the possibility that he might be a candidate for the permanent position may compromise the search process.
“I believe that an interim president who is also a candidate will have a chilling effect on the candidate pool,” said Regent Rebecca McGowan (D-Ann Arbor).
Bollinger, who will become president of Columbia University on July 1, moved his chair from the head of the table at Friday”s regents meeting, making way for White to address the board.
“I accept this nomination with a great sense of gratitude and a sense of awe,” White said.
The interim presidency interrupts White”s one-year sabbatical, during which he was preparing to resume teaching in the Business School.
In his acceptance speech to the regents, White expressed a sense of duty to the University and also dedicated his interim presidency to remembering those alumni who were victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Each of us has sought, since September 11, to find our way to serve our country. The regents have presented me with my way to honor these alums,” White said.
Bollinger praised the members of his executive board and recognized White as an outstanding leader.
“I know him as a loyal, knowledgeable, imaginative and willful member of this community,” Bollinger said.
“He likes high standards, he sets high standards for himself,” Bollinger added. “More importantly our daughters were childhood friends, and I know that he and (his wife) Mary are very good people.”
Both McGowan and Regent Olivia Maynard (D-Goodrich) said their decisions were solely based on what they believed were the best interests of the search process and had no bearing on White”s ability to lead the University.
“My “no” vote today will not be a reflection of my opinion of Dean White,” Maynard said.
Other regents said White”s selection is the best decision for the University.
“I believe there is zero empirical evidence that we will not be able to attract a good candidate pool because our interim president has not decided whether he will be a candidate or not,” said Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bingham Farms).
Deitch praised White”s honesty, saying White could have initially denied the possibility of seeking the permanent presidency and then gone back on his word.
“What you see is what you get,” Deitch said.
No announcements were made regarding the presidential search process at Friday”s meeting.
But McGowan recalled the last presidential search as being “not only exhaustive but exhausting” and expressed her hope that this search will be shorter.