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The University of Pennsylvania tapped Amy Gutmann ’71 to become its next president last week, marking the first time an Ivy League school has named successive female leaders.
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.”
Thompson described Gutmann as a “born teacher” as well as an accomplished administrator.
“She’s known for deliberative democracy—something we’ve both written about,” he said. “She actually practices it.”
Gutmann said in an interview that she hopes to take advantage of Penn’s “cohesive” campus—with all of its graduate schools proximate to the arts and sciences—to further strengthen ties between the schools.
“Penn has great strength in interdisciplinary teaching and research, and its potential there is even greater,” she said.
Thompson also said that Gutmann was likely to exercise her bully pulpit, focusing on issues of egalitarianism in education. She’d add the voice of a humanist to a dialogue dominated by economics, he added, alluding to the professions of Yale and Harvard’s presidents.
Gutmann said that financial aid—for both undergraduate and graduate students—is another top priority. And she said working successfully with Philadelphia would one of the major challenges she will face.
Gutmann said that she, like her predecessor, would continue to fundraise extensively for the university, which lags behind rivals in the size of its endowment.
The chance to preside over a university with a full complement of professional schools, which Penn has but Princeton does not, helped lure her to Philadelphia, she said.
When Gutmann stepped down from her position as Princeton’s dean of the faculty in 1997, she cited a desire to return to teaching. But she said yesterday that the opportunity to be a top university administrator was too great to pass up.
“I missed [teaching and research] then acutely because I felt that I had left behind several courses and books that were still very high priority for me,” she said. “I miss it now—that’s just to say that you can’t do everything you want to do at once. The challenge of being provost and now the challenge of being president are just so exciting that it suppresses some of the other longing that I have to do things.”
After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1971, Gutmann took a teaching job at Princeton, where she has remained. In 1990, she founded Princeton’s University Center for Human Values, which developed into one of the country’s leading ethics centers.
A leading scholar in political science, she is also Rockefeller university professor of politics.
She served as Princeton’s dean of the faculty from 1995 to 1997 and served for another year as academic advisor to the president.
—Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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