University Provost Nancy Cantor will leave Ann Arbor to assume the top position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, officials announced today.

Paul Wong
Nancy Cantor

Cantor, who was appointed to her current position at the University of Michigan in 1997, will succeed Chancellor Michael Aiken, who is retiring in August. She will be the first woman to head the campus.

“I will always be very grateful for the time I”ve had at the University,” Cantor said today.

Aiken said he feels Cantor is well qualified to assume the chancellorship.

“Based on everything I know about her, I think she will do a superb job,” Aiken said today. “When you come into these jobs and you have the experience, which she obviously does, it”s just a question of learning the circumstances.”

Assistant Provost Paul Courant would not speculate on who might replace Cantor. If a permanent replacement is not appointed before she leaves, University President Lee Bollinger would select an interim provost.

University of Illinois President James Stukel said Cantor”s experience at both public and private institutions has prepared her for the post of chancellor. “We”re just delighted,” Stukel said.

Cantor”s career at the University of Michigan began in 1983 as an assistant professor. She became a full professor, a research scientist and finally an assistant dean of graduate studies before leaving in 1991 to head Princeton University”s psychology department. In 1996 she returned to Michigan as dean of the graduate school and vice provost for academic affairs. She was appointed to the position of provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in 1997, the first woman ever to hold the position.

“Nancy”s academic and institutional leadership has been strong and vibrant, and her appointment as Chancellor for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is richly deserved,” Bollinger said in a written statement. “She has served the University of Michigan with enormous distinction and with every ounce of her energy and drive.”

“The job of provost is a very typical stepping stone to a university presidency for a highly talented person, and she”s achieved that,” said University of Michigan Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills). “She”s a brilliant person and she has brought into the University tremendous academic leadership in terms of people she”s recruited for deanships and faculty positions, and her leadership on affirmative action litigation has been passionate and brilliant.”

Cantor”s experience in both administrative and academic positions drew the attention of the University of Illinois search committee.

“She commands respect as an academic,” said Prof. William Greenough, director of the Center for Advanced Study at the Urbana-Champaign campus, who served on the search committee.

“She understands society and how it”s changing, and the role of higher education in changing society, and she has really great vision in terms of where higher education should be going in the 21st century,” said Dr. James Anderson, who also served on the search committee.

Courant praised Cantor”s work and its benefits for students.

“She has been, I think, tremendously effective in articulating a vision for what a great research institution can be,” Courant said. Cantor was remarkable in her efforts to bring research and education together in a cohesive relationship, Courant said.

Cantor”s emphasis on diversity also served Michigan well, Courant added.

“I think she”s been a great provost for students, both graduate and undergraduate, in making this university and its strengths accessible in all aspects of student life,” Courant said. “That will be a real legacy for this university that will serve us well for a long time to come.”

“Their gain is our loss,” he added. “That will be a tough act to follow.”

Cantor will need to be approved by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees at its May 23 meeting before she can be confirmed to the position.

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