Future NU president on campus this week

Nathalie Tadena

Future University President Morton Schapiro will meet with students, faculty and administrators today as he begins a three-day visit to Northwestern.

Schapiro, the current president of Williams College, will participate in a question-and-answer session and attend a reception on the Evanston Campus today and on the Chicago Campus Wednesday.

NU’s Board of Trustees announced on Dec. 16 that Schapiro will succeed University President Henry Bienen, who will retire in August.

“It will be difficult to leave Williams, one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, but this is a tremendous opportunity to go to one of the best major research universities in the country,” Schapiro said in a press release. “I very much look forward to being there and getting to know the Northwestern community.”

Schapiro is making the jump to NU from a liberal arts college with a total enrollment of 2,137 undergraduates and 48 graduate students. He used to invite students over for dinner, said Karen Merrill, dean of the college at Williams.

Still, he is very “willing and eager” to get acquainted with NU, said university spokesman Al Cubbage.

Schapiro’s selection concluded a nine-month search conducted by a presidential search committee headed by trustee William Osborn.

“What struck us about Dr. Schapiro is that he had a very, very successful record in the undergraduate field at Williams,” said Osborn, who cited the capability to improve the undergraduate experience at NU as a major qualification during the search process. “He’s a sitting president, so he’s done the job, and he’s an economics professor so he understands the (profit and loss) of a university in today’s world.”

More than 100 candidates were considered for the position. However, Schapiro was nominated by several people both within and outside of NU, Osborn said.

“He provided the right experience, right level of energy and vision to drive NU to the next level,” he said.

Schapiro’s academic background was another important consideration in the decision, which was unanimously supported by all faculty members on the committee, Osborn said.

Schapiro has spent 30 years in academia as an economics professor and administrator. During his nine years as Williams’ president, Schapiro has helped expand the college’s tutorial program, facilitated the construction of several new buildings on campus, increased student diversity and allowed more students to qualify for financial aid.

He also appears poised to continue Bienen’s history of bringing in large amounts of money from wealthy donors.

Part of Williams’ expansion was paid for by a large fundraising campaign Schapiro initiated in 2003, with a goal of $400 million by the end of 2008. As of March last year, the program had brought in $450 million in donations.

Before accepting the position at Williams, Schapiro spent six years as the dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California, where he was also a professor, chairman of the economics department and the vice president for planning.

From 1980 to 1991, Schapiro was an economics professor and assistant provost at Williams.

Considered a specialist in the economics of higher education, particularly in college affordability and financial aid policies, Schapiro has written more than 100 articles and five books.

While president of Williams, Schapiro has taught economics classes every year and has expressed interest in teaching at NU, Cubbage said.

Although Schapiro will not be meeting with Bienen, who is away from campus for the week, the two have been in communication since Schapiro’s appointment, Cubbage said. Bienen, Schapiro and their families sat next to each other at the Alamo Bowl Dec. 29.

In addition to meeting with staff members who report to the president, deans and vice presidents on Tuesday, Schapiro will eat dinner in the Allison Hall dining room and give a fireside discussion at Shepard Residential College.

“I think he is a superb choice and I look forward to working with him during the transition,” Bienen wrote in an e-mail. “I am confident that he will have a very positive impact on Northwestern in the coming years.”

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