Eugene Sunshine set to retire from Northwestern after 17 years

Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance, speaks at a 2013 meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Sunshine (Weinberg 71) will step down this summer after 17 years at Northwestern.

Daily file photo by Susan Du

Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance, speaks at a 2013 meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. Sunshine (Weinberg ’71) will step down this summer after 17 years at Northwestern.

Ally Mutnick, Campus Editor

Eugene Sunshine announced Monday he will step down this summer from his position as Northwestern’s senior vice president for business and finance.

Sunshine (Weinberg ‘71), who serves as the University’s top business, administrative, financial and personnel officer, oversaw large-scale campus expansion, significant endowment growth and a balanced budget during his 17-year tenure. 

Sunshine, 64, said he made the decision to retire from his full-time job to consult, teach and advise companies. 

“My thought was there would come a time when I would stop working 12 hours a day, six days a week for Northwestern,” Sunshine said. “This seemed like the right time to do it given my age and given what opportunities seem to be out there.”

On Monday, colleagues and friends attributed major University gains to Sunshine since he came to NU in 1997. 

Under his stewardship, more than 20 buildings have been added, renovated or expanded on the Chicago and Evanston campuses including Pancoe Hall, Silverman Hall and the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, according to a University news release. 

Sunshine noted he is especially proud the University was able to complete so much construction and renovation, not for the aesthetics of the buildings themselves but because the space they provide is crucial to NU’s academic and administrative goals.

“The teaching and the research and the lab and those kinds of things, which have a very long legacy to them, are very very important to me,” he said.

Sunshine also helped add more than a billion dollars to the University’s endowment by negotiating the royalties from the sale of Lyrica, an anti-seizure drug developed by a NU professor.

Federal research funds have also increased during his tenure, growing from about $170 million to $550 million, University spokesman Al Cubbage said. Additionally, Sunshine helped reach key agreements with NU medical facilities that benefit the Feinberg School of Medicine. 

Sunshine also made personal improvements to benefit the NU community, said Cubbage, who also came to NU in 1997.

He helped create partnerships with local organizations to provide discounted child care for faculty, staff and graduate students on the Evanston and Chicago campus. Sunshine also oversaw the creation of a campus shuttle system — something especially important in recent subzero temperatures, Cubbage said.

“What some people don’t realize is that he had a huge impact on things that have improved the quality of life for students, faculty and staff,” Cubbage said.

Lauding Sunshine’s “stellar” financial management, Cubbage noted the University has had a balanced budget for 16 years and weathered the recent economic downturn better than many of its peers. NU did not lay off any staff members and was even able to offer raises during the recession, Cubbage said.

Colleagues said they admired his leadership style, calling him pragmatic and focused. Lucile Krasnow, who worked under Sunshine as the special assistant for community relations, said Sunshine collaborated well with administrators to enact changes across campus.

“He has one of those personalities,” she said. “So many people have appreciated working directly with him and have developed deep bonds. He’s one of a kind.”

Though he is stepping down from his administrative role, Sunshine said he will remain close the University. Sunshine, who will continue to live in Glenview, Ill., said he would love to teach a course, having previously been a guest lecturer for programs in the Kellogg School of Management, the School of Education and Social Policy and the School of Continuing Studies.

During his time as an NU student, Sunshine played varsity baseball and was sports editor of The Daily.

“Northwestern has been a part of my life since I was 18 years old,” Sunshine said. “I went to school here. I met my wife here … Once it’s in your blood as long it’s been in our blood, it’s pretty hard to get out.”

Rebecca Savransky contributed reporting.

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