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The president of Princeton University announced Friday that he will step down from his post at the end of this academic year, bringing to three the number of Ivy League schools in search of a president.
Harold T. Shapiro, a Canadian-born economist, began his term as Princeton's 18th president in 1988.
His announcement--along with former Brown President E. Gordon Gee's abrupt move to Vanderbilt University and the impending departure of Harvard's President Neil L. Rudenstine--means that three prestigious institutions may find themselves competing for the same top prospects.
In a Friday afternoon press conference to announce his decision, Shapiro noted that he had recently turned 65 and said he wanted to return to teaching and research.
"It is at least my sense that I am leaving Princeton at the top of its game," he said. "The university is really in very good shape with lots of capacity for my successor and the board of trustees to take new initiatives."
He said Princeton's recently completed $1.14 billion capital campaign was another factor contributing to his decision that it was time for a change.
A search committee comprised of nine Princeton trustees, five faculty members, three students and one staff member will make a recommendation to the full board of trustees concerning Shapiro's successor.
Virtually all of the current searches for university presidents include faculty and students in some sort of formal advisory capacity--if not on the search committee itself, then as a part of an adjunct body.
Harvard seems to be a notable exception. Here, a nine-member search committee composed solely of members of the University's governing boards will nominate Rudenstine's successor.
Such searches generally take between six and eight months.
In an open letter to the Princeton community, Princeton trustee Robert H. Rawson Jr. wrote that he hopes to conclude the search for Princeton's 19th president during this academic year.
Top candidates for university presidencies generally include subordinates like provosts and deans as well as other university presidents.
At Harvard, for example, Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 and Harvard Business School Dean Kim B. Clark '74 are widely considered the leading internal candidates.
Like Rudenstine, Shapiro is perhaps best known for his fundraising ability. The recent capital campaign was the most successful in Princeton history, obtaining support from 78 percent of undergraduate alumni.
Under Shapiro's stewardship, Princeton's endowment has quadrupled from about $2 billion to about $8 billion. He is also responsible for beginning extensive overhauls of many of the buildings on Princeton's campus.
His efforts to improve Princeton's financial aid system triggered a series of similar improvements at competitor schools, including Harvard.
During his time as president, the faculty of Princeton has grown and become more diverse. The student body will soon follow: last spring, the school's board of trustees approved a decision to increase the size of the undergraduate student body by 10 percent.
Shapiro was instrumental in changing the university's motto from "Princeton in the Nation's Service" to "Princeton in the Nation's Service and in the Service of All Nations."
During his tenure, Princeton also ventured into the information age, joining with Yale, Stanford and Oxford universities in a distance learning alliance that Harvard opted not to enter.
Shapiro has chaired the board of the Association of American Universities and has been a board member of several other organizations prominent in higher education, including the American Council on Education, the Educational Testing Service and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Before becoming Princeton's leader, Shapiro was the president of the University of Michigan.
Princeton junior Nathan P. Kitchens said Shapiro's decision wasn't entirely unexpected.
"It's a bit of a shock when someone that has been a part of Princeton as long as I can remember is gone," he wrote in an e-mail message. "Students knew that he has had a relatively long tenure, though, and we weren't too surprised that he would leave when it seemed like he had little left to accomplish."
Kitchens added that Shapiro focused his attention on undergraduates, investing resources in dorms and academic buildings.
"I'm currently living in one of the air-conditioned dorms he built two years ago, which is a minute away from the new campus center, so I feel his impact directly every day," he said.
Shapiro's willingness to take risks was also impressive, Kitchens added. In addition to expanding Princeton's student body, Shapiro ended a longtime Princeton tradition--the Nude Olympics--and was responsible for one of the most controversial faculty hires ever, bioethicist Peter Singer. Critics take issue with Singer's views on euthanasia.
"He put himself on the line," Kitchens said. "These gambles pushed the progress of the university beyond its normal pace."
While Shapiro could have consulted students more on some decisions, Kitchens said, "he may have felt the pulse of the undergraduates better than our student government at times."
"I can't think of anyone internally that could fulfill the duties, so I think the trustees will probably focus their search on other colleges," Kitchens said. "It just seems like there's little left for his successor to do."
--Staff writer Daniel P. Mosteller contributed to the reporting of this story.
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