After nine months of searching for a new president of the university, UR announced yesterday that Dean of the Washington University School of Law Joel Seligman will replace President Thomas Jackson on July 1, 2005.
Seligman, who has also served as dean of the University of Arizona College of Law and is author or co-author of 20 books and over 35 articles on legal issues involving corporations and securities, will become the 10th president of the university.
“The process of selecting our tenth president worked exquisitely well and involved all important constituencies,” Vice President and Staff to the Trustees’ Presidential Search Committee Paul Burgett said. “With that in mind I think we can have tremendous confidence that President-elect Seligman will do as he said – that is, build on the greatness and progress of the Jackson administration.”
In yesterday’s press conference, Seligman outlined several main priorities for his coming term, which included a capital campaign, a stress on diversity and a working relationship with the city of Rochester.
A capital campaign has been discussed for several years, and Seligman emphasized his support of this idea and the idea of helping UR gain additional financial support. “Clearly this school has made moving toward a capital campaign a top priority,” he said. “We hope to have a Vice President of Advancement for the campaign.”
Seligman noted that expanding UR’s reputation and recognition will be a major component of his administration. “The University of Rochester has not received the attention on the national and international scene it deserves,” he said. “It is, to too many, an undiscovered jewel. We will try to work with the schools to elevate that profile.”
Another of Seligman’s goals is to continue UR’s efforts at creating an atmosphere that fosters diversity. “This is a multicultural world,” he said. “Every race, every gender, every nationality matters. Diversity is really about mutual respect and empathy – I’m delighted that the search committee [made it a priority].”
UR has worked with the city of Rochester in several projects, such as the reopening of Wilson Boulevard in 2002, and Seligman spoke on the idea of continuing to foster a strong relationship with the city of Rochester. “We’re neighbors,” he said. “We live here. We want the strongest possible city and community in every sense.”
Continuing, he said, “We can help strengthen Rochester.”
Seligman voiced more concrete ideas as well for creating a synergy with the city, which includes being involved in future projects. “One of the priorities is economic development,” he said. “I look forward to having a seat at that table and be a part of that effort.”
Before the press conference, Seligman met with Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks about his desire to encourage economic development in the surrounding community, and Brooks expressed her support and enthusiasm for Seligman and his aims.
“The University of Rochester is an institution that puts Rochester and Monroe County on the map and contributes greatly to the economic and cultural vitality of our community,” Brooks said in a statement. “President-elect Seligman recognizes the tremendous resource that we have in UR, and the opportunities we can build on for the future. I am especially encouraged by his desire to expand the university’s role in our community.”
Continuing, she said, “I thank President Jackson for his strong leadership throughout the years and I look forward to working with President-elect Seligman. The county will continue to be a strong partner with the university, especially in the area of economic development and job creation.”
Above all, Seligman stressed his main purpose as one who will listen and learn from the UR community in order to accomplish his objectives. “I strongly believe the strongest leader is one who listens, and I’m going to practice what I’ve preached before,” Seligman said.
“I’m absolutely convinced that Rochester is the right size for a great university,” Seligman said. “It’s large enough so that it could do very serious research in scientific, and medical and engineering areas. It’s small enough so you’ve got the intimacy.”
G. Robert Witmer, Jr., Chair of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Trustees’ Presidential Search Committee, said that Seligman’s personality is one of his strengths. “He’s very warm, energetic and interested in other people and a wonderful listener,” Witmer said.
“[Seligman] very much wanted to be here,” Dean of The College and member of the University Advisory Committee William Green said. “He brings energy and a record of advancing schools that he leaves. He understands what we’ve accomplished and understands what needs to be done.”
“I’m delighted for the university,” Provost Charles Phelps said. “[Seligman is] going to bring a lot of experience that’s really going to help us. He’s going to fit in here like a hand in a glove.”
Seligman’s colleagues at Washington University also praised him, noting many positive changes. “He helped re-vamp the first-year curriculum,” Associate Dean for Academic Affairs David Keating said. “He started two academic centers here at the law school. He hired a lot of outstanding faculty.”
Keating said that Seligman was unusually committed to listening to students at Washington University. “He made a point to reach out to students,” he said. “Every year he was teaching, [while he was the] dean, which is unusual. He scheduled 12 separate lunches with every first-year law student [so he could meet them]. He went out of his way to reach out to students.”
While Seligman would like to continue teaching at UR right away, he said that he may not be able to do so, but will make “guest appearances.” “I find [teaching] reminds you of why you’re here,” he said.
He also stressed the student energy he felt when he met with UR students impressed him. “When I met with the students, I knew I wanted this job,” Seligman said. “There’s such energy, such absolute commitment.”
President Thomas Jackson agreed with Seligman’s vision for the university and looked forward to introducing Seligman to the shoes he will eventually fill. “By and large we share so many things in common it will be a wonderful working relationship,” he said. “He and I talked about goals and I think he’s right on the money.”
Continuing, he said, “Announcing [his goals] now was exactly the right thing to do.”
He also feels at the right time, he will bow out and leave Seligman at the helm. “I will stay completely out of [Seligman’s] hair,” Jackson said. “I feel an ex-President shouldn’t be heard. But I will be here and I will stand available for anything he needs or desires.”
Jackson plans on taking a year sabbatical after his retirement before returning to UR to retain a professorship.
Provost Charles Phelps agreed it was a match that fit with many characteristics that Washington University embodies and that Seligman could use his past achievements to serve UR. “Washington University is a school that looks a lot like UR. [Seligman’s] experience base is really going to help us at UR.”
“We’re very sorry to see him leave here and you’re lucky to have him,” Keating said. “We’re very appreciative of [what he’s done here].”
by Cyrus Levesque.
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