From Penn Provost
to Hopkins President


Jan|Feb 09 Contents
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In November, Penn Provost Ronald Daniels was named the new president of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Daniels came to Penn in 2005 from the University of Toronto, where he was dean of the law school. He will take up his new post in March. Associate provost for faculty affairs Vincent Price will serve as interim provost during the search for a new chief academic officer.

During his short tenure on campus, Daniels was active on many fronts. “Under Ron’s leadership,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann, “Penn has launched a no-loan financial-aid initiative for undergraduates and significantly increased graduate student stipends; created University-wide research institutes in regenerative medicine and public health, as well as cross-disciplinary research initiatives in neuroscience, nanoscience, and translational medicine; extended our global relationships, especially with Botswana’s government and the University of Botswana in their efforts to fight HIV and AIDS; and initiated programs to increase international enrollment at Penn and to host global leaders, writers, and activists on Penn’s campus.”

Undergraduate Assembly chair Wilson Tong praised Daniels as an advocate for student concerns, crediting him for supporting initiatives like the distribution of The New York Times to undergraduates free of charge. “Without him, I don’t think we would have that, or as high a quality of life on campus as we have right now,” Tong said.

When he came to Penn, Daniels had been steeped in what he described as a highly interdisciplinary ethos at the University of Toronto [“Gazetteer,” July|Aug 2005]. A similar commitment marked his approach to the job here. He consistently championed programs designed to apply academic research to real-world problems. A typical example would be the Ideas in Action initiative, which has brought students and policymakers together in the classroom to tackle contemporary challenges ranging from malaria prevention in Malawi to health-care reform in Pennsylvania [“Gazetteer,” Sept|Oct 2008].

“The broader piece about Ron is his instinct about trying to couple knowledge in the academy to problems that matter outside of it,” said Don Kettl, outgoing director of the Fels Institute of Government and current Robert A. Fox Professor of Leadership. “The effort we made with Hurricane Katrina also reflected that approach, which was to make sure that what the academy has to say to society isn’t bound up in the tunnel-vision of individual disciplines.”

In a conversation with the Gazette, Daniels was reluctant to evaluate his own performance as provost, but eager to sing the praises of the community he will be leaving behind.

“When you say programs,” he observed, “it’s really a proxy for people. One of the things I’ve really treasured since I’ve been at Penn is the opportunity to work with such an outstanding leadership team. And that’s not just the deans and the people in the Provost’s Office, and of course Amy and her executive team, but the student leadership and the alumni leadership. Across all the various estates of the University, there’s such a wonderful and sincere commitment to the University. That’s something that’s really moved me deeply.” —T.P.



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  ©2009 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 12/29/08