Robert Kasdin, University chief financial officer, will be the University’s second executive officer to take a job at Columbia University since January, following former President Lee Bollinger to his new position as Columbia’s president.

Paul Wong
Kasdin

“It’s an exciting opportunity in a city that has been home to my family for years,” Kasdin said. “I’m excited to work with Lee (Bollinger) again, but this was a decision based on a variety of things.”

Kasdin said his resignation will be effective as of April 30, but he will not join Bollinger’s team until July.

“I always knew he’d want to return to New York,” Bollinger said. “Robert is from New York City. I recruited him from New York when he was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Susan Feagin, former vice president for development, left for a similar job under Bollinger at Columbia last month. Other executives who have chosen to leave or not come to the University include Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Gil Omenn, who will step down from his position in July to pursue research interests, and Scott Emr, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California San Diego, who announced he would not join Jack Dixon as co-director of the Bollinger-planned Life Sciences Initiative this summer.

In February, Emr told the Daily his reasons for not coming to Michigan were partly personal and partly due to Bollinger leaving.

Interim University President B. Joseph White said he does not think the situation with executive officers departing is unique to the University.

“I think it’s what happens virtually always when there is departure of a senior person,” White said. “People who came to work with that person begin to reconsider their options. I didn’t really expect anything else.”

Bollinger seemed to agree with White about the fact that some people just like to work together.

“There are people who sometimes really enjoy working together, like me and Robert and me and Susan Feagin,” Bollinger said.

“We form a kind of working partnership, and if it is very productive, when that is broken it’s very natural to try to recreate it.”

“I’ve created a position called senior executive vice president, which will be one of the highest in the university. At Columbia, there is far more work to be done than there are administrators. Robert will be working on a variety of projects … because he has a very mixed portfolio,” Bollinger said.

Kasdin’s colleagues said they feel happy for him.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Robert,” said Vice President and Secretary to the University Lisa Tedesco. “Of course when things like this happen it’s bittersweet for the University.”

Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations and interim vice president for development, said she will “miss Mr. Kasdin as a colleague and a really talented person.”

Tedesco is confident the lack of permanent positions at the executive level is no cause for alarm.

“This is not a normal course – we are in transition. Our executive officer team was assembled completely by Lee Bollinger, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” she said.

Wilbanks said she agrees that the University is in a period of transition.

“However, I wouldn’t say any of us would want to let the University come to a standstill,” she added. Wilbanks herself is currently holding two jobs.

The first, which she has held since 1998, is as the vice president for government relations.

She also holds Feagin’s old job as vice president for development on an interim basis.

“While I do have a very busy schedule, I’m happy to do my part,” Wilbanks said.

Tedesco, who devotes much of her time to helping the regents with the presidential search, said she does not think the holes in the University’s executive offices will cause the regents to hasten their search.

“I think the regents are on a good timetable” (with the presidential search), Tedesco said. “I don’t think this will speed it up or slow it down.”

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