Gutmann, who is currently provost of Princeton University, will succeed the widely-respected Judith Rodin, who announced last summer that she would step down in July 2004 after a decade at the helm.
When she takes office, among the first challenges Gutmann will face is to find a way to balance undergraduates and the arts and sciences programs with Penn’s tremendously successful graduate schools.
Gutmann, 54, was one of four candidates on the short list in Harvard’s 2001 presidential search—and she’s not the first to end up leading another Ivy League school. Former University of Michigan President Lee C. Bollinger, another finalist for Harvard’s top job, was picked to head Columbia University in 2002.
Gutmann was also a finalist for the Princeton presidency in 2001.
Since then she has played a crucial role in luring some of Harvard’s top professors to Princeton, spearheading the high-profile, and ultimately succesful, courtship of noted Afro-American studies scholars K. Anthony Appiah and Cornel R. West ’74.
She was also key to less fruitful efforts to woo away their colleague and department chair, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr.
“She wants to win,” said Whitehead Professor of Government Dennis F. Thompson, who has co-authored two books with Gutmann and chaired the search committee that first hired her as an assistant professor at Princeton. “She wants to recruit talent. She does it by a combination of providing good reason and just inspiring people.”
In appointing Gutmann, Penn has become the first Ivy League school to appoint two female presidents in row, a development that Rodin has said would mark an important milestone on the road to gender equality in academia.
In a July 2002 Crimson roundtable discussion on women in higher education, Rodin said appointing one female president does not mean the glass ceiling has been shattered.
“We won’t know the answer to that question until we see one of our institutions that had a woman as president have a second woman and then a third,” Rodin said at a roundtable conference on women last year. “Because there is a considerable risk that the institution will indeed feel that it’s done that and then want to move onto its next first—the first African-American or the first this or the first that.”
Many say Gutmann has big shoes to fill in succeeding Rodin, who has been widely hailed as a prodigious fundraiser and a popular leader.
“Judy Rodin is a hard act to follow, so initially it might be difficult,” Dean of Penn’s Schools of Arts and Sciences Samuel Preston told The Daily Pennsylvanian last week.
And Gutmann said one of her top priorities will be to “continue the great momentum” that Penn developed under Rodin.
Thompson said Penn picked her in part because they hoped she would focus on the arts and sciences.
“At Penn, they wouldn’t have appointed her had they not wanted someone who cared about arts and sciences,” Thompson said. “Penn has pretty strong professional schools and some very good arts and sciences departments. But their weakness, compared to other Ivy League schools, is that the arts and sciences faculty could be strengthened.”