On May 22, shortly after the end of the spring semester, UR President Joel Seligman announced that Ralph Kuncl had been appointed to the position of Provost. Kuncl, who started his new job on Aug. 1, replaces Charles Phelps, who is retiring after 13 years as UR Provost.

Kuncl comes to UR from Bryn Mawr College, outside of Philadelphia, where he served as provost since 2002. In his time there, Bryn Mawr’s federal research grant support nearly tripled. He worked to create a number of interdisciplinary tracks for students as well as a plan to reassess the university’s strategic plan. According to the Bryn Mawr Web site, faculty members there noted his support for the arts and mentoring programs for faculty members of all ages as additional qualities.

Before his time at Bryn Mawr, he spent 19 years as a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University. It was there that his lab made a groundbreaking discovery concerning ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The discovery eventually led to the first effective ALS treatment.

In his final year at Johns Hopkins, Kuncl was named Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and he subsequently created the Commission on Undergraduate Education. The commission served to change a number of aspects of undergraduate studies, and the experience led Kuncl to take part in undergraduate education transformation on a national level.

Kuncl is also a renowned vocalist, having performed with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society for 20 years. More recently, he showed his talents in a televised choral performance that won an Emmy Award.

Phelps leaves after 23 years as a leading member of the UR faculty and administration. As Provost, he was a part of the Renaissance Plan, which turned a precarious financial situation in the 1990s into a successful restructuring of the entire undergraduate experience at UR. The plan initiated a reduction in the size of both the undergraduate and graduate population, creating the intimate and residential environment that exists at UR today.

Kuncl was out of town and unavailable for comment, but earlier in the summer he described some of the aspects of UR that stuck out in his mind.

“Even before the position at Rochester opened, I felt like I already had experiences that gave me an instant attraction and connection to what the place is all about,” he said. “As a musician, I knew the Eastman School was a gem. From involvement in national associations, I knew of the reformation of the College’s curriculum with its cluster approach, the Center for Entrepreneurship and the strong research profile of the University for its small size among its leading peers. And as a neuroscientist at Hopkins, I was well aware that the Rochester neurology and neuroscience programs were preeminent in the country. I knew the work of many of these colleagues and admired them from afar.”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.



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