President Zimmer is to assume the new role of Chancellor of U of C by the end of 2021 school year

Hot off the press and just released 4 minutes ago.

Naturally Provost Ka Yee Lee will take on heavier duty as the COO of the University.

Just wonder whether former Provost Diermeier and current Chancellor of Vanderbilt University will return to be President in a couple of years.

Diermeier may think–if only the Vandy search had come a bit later, he might be UChicago prez…

That’s a good question. Hannah Gray was provost and acting president of Yale only a few years prior to returning to Chicago. Zimmer was provost of Brown for same short duration. I see a scenario either for Prov. Lee or Chancellor Diermeier. Both are getting plenty of presidential leadership experience at this moment.

Interesting that they resurrected the title of Chancellor for Zimmer. Was Hutchins the last to hold that position or a few others following him?

Hope it’s Diermeier not Lee. She’s been pretty awful so far with her victimhood.

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From the email President Zimmer just sent to the University community:

"At the conclusion of this academic year, on July 1, 2021, I will segue from the position of president to a position of Chancellor of the University. In that role I will focus on the following issues: i) continuation and evolution of strategic initiatives of the University; ii) re-enforcing the enduring values of the University and our distinctive approach to research, education, and impact; iii) continuing key relationships of the University – with trustees, friends, donors, alumni, and parents; federal, state, county, and city officials; local community leaders and partners; global partners; and leaders and supporters of our key institutional partners – University of Chicago Medical Center, Argonne, Fermilab, and the Marine Biological Laboratory; iv) high level fundraising; and v) working with my successor as president to assist them to better contribute in these directions. As Chancellor, I will also serve as a Trustee of the University. This plan is meant to address the current situation and is not reflective of a permanent change in the structure of University leadership and governance. It is a way for me to help assure an effective transition to my successor and for me to continue to serve the University while doing so.

During this academic year, the Board of Trustees will launch a search for my successor as president and you will soon hear from the Chair of the Board, Joe Neubauer, about this and related matters."

Honestly, I don’t see his new role of Chancellor any different from his current role of President. My guess is that this arrangement allows the University to install a President by June 2021 and then to have a smooth transition when Zimmer retires in 2022. Provost Lee is likely too green in her job to assume the role of President by 2022. Her time will come some day.

Jokes aside, Diermeier will likely be one of the strong candidates to succeed Zimmer. He knows really well the layout of the land here at U of C. But Vanderbilt may not be happy about his very short tenure there.

On the other hand, the reason why Diermeier took the Vandy job could be the Board of Trustee had explicitly told him that he would not be on the short list. So he decided not to hang around HP to wait for Zimmer’s retirement in 2022.

Well, whoever has the inside scoop please enlighten us.

@CrescatScientia I respectfully disagree. IMO so far Provost Lee has done a fantastic job in dealing with the ever changing pandemic landscape. She has been forthright, clear and measured in enunciating the University response. As a parent of current student and an alumnus, I applaud her wisdom and handwork during this black swan event.

Both Lee and Zimmer have made recent statements re-affirming the university’s commitment to “diversity and inclusion.” Provost Lee also held a symposium with members of the university community on the UCPD, “institutional accountability” and “racism.” This symposium also included the Chief of UCPD (who is black, by the way). Many viewpoints were expressed but I haven’t heard that it was used to spearhead some new initiative to put aside the university’s academic mission or forge a new identity. Maybe others have a different take. Just a guess, but that kind of dialogue sounds like something that Zimmer might have spearheaded had his health emergency not coincided with the other events.

We don’t usually know what goes on behind the scenes for things like faculty tenure or hiring but I can think of a few other prominent universities that have, in recent years, publicly sidestepped any sort of prime commitment to academic freedom or inquiry in favor of other, more trendy goals. For instance, here: Or here:

Do these other university leaders foster a culture that imposes politically correct speech or discourages certain types of inquiry? Probably not. Are hiring and tenure decisions made on political considerations as much as - or even more than - academic ones? Oftentimes: yes. And that’s been true since my dad was an academic many decades ago. It was probably true well before his time. Keep in mind that “politics” can range widely, from national issues to intra-departmental squabbles about methodology or research relevance.

It’s fair for the University of Chicago to have a discussion about what a university’s goals should be in this current - at times seemingly unstable - environment. That’s in keeping with being an institution that supports inquiry. UChicago does more inward reflection than most other places. That’s in part what makes it special.

Unfortunately, this announcement was inevitable after it was first revealed that President Zimmer had an operation to remove brain tumor in May. May God bless him, he served UChicago brilliantly and will be a very hard act to follow.

Fortunately, I believe the Board of Trustees has the requisite financial savvy and competence to make the right selection for Chicago’s next president. I suspect that the opening will be very attractive to a large number of highly qualified candidates. The UChicago’ president’s job is undoubtedly complex and requires a sophisticated blend of academic standing, financial acumen, charisma, integrity, and conviction to sustain firmly Chicago’s principles of free expression and uncomfortable inquiry. We can only hope that the Board does not try to hire an “empty-suit politician” who is more concerned with compromise and pleasing everyone because this approach never leads to greatness or eminence.

Some questions yet to be answered: will Chicago’s next president be an “insider” or “outsider” with no prior connections to the university, and will this person come from a STEM or non-STEM background given Chicago’s recent focus on molecular engineering, CS, quantum computing, data science, and even the biological sciences/medical plant. Personally, I hope that these initiatives continue to be a huge focus of investment because these are the critical fields to achieve eminence in the 21st century. Chicago is already strong in most of the social sciences, humanities, business and law schools, math, physics, and statistics; continued prioritization of engineering, CS, and biological sciences are a must to ensure Chicago’s comprehensive eminence over the next 30 years.

Although I trust the University Trustee would make a fine decision on Zimmer’s successor, I also would like to point out almost all of the trustees are business (especially finance) people. None of them has a science PhD (Grossman and Liew both have finance and economics PhD).

I am not a STEM guy myself but I would like to see another STEM PhD like Zimmer himself to be the next President.

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85- I expect they’ll bring in STEM people on the search committee who will be influential. I think Dean Boyer will be influential too. Zoom10 to your list of attributes of the successful UChicago president I would add politician. A politician capable of dealing with and in most cases fending off the effects of Chicago politics.

Dean Boyer is actually one year OLDER than President Zimmer. The University is fortunate to have two dynamic and innovative leaders in Boyer and Zimmer but they are not getting any younger. Boyer’s term is up in 2022. I am quite sure the question of a successor has started already in the Board of Trustee and it is quite likely in two years both of them will yield their places to two much younger fine candidates.

Obviously the campus has been quiet since late March. In the past once five or six weeks I might see Dean Boyer riding his bike to school with his signature black high top sneakers. He seemed to be in good health 6 months ago. But I doubt he would want another term in 2022.

That’s why I am confident in Chicago’s BOT, because they are largely extremely successful business-minded persons who understand the bottom line: that excellence in STEM is a must have for any great university going forward. However, don’t forget that the CEO of Microsoft is a Trustee and maybe Bill Gates will get more involved with the Board once his son graduates. The current provost is also rooted in STEM (chemistry) background.

I’m not saying that Chicago should neglect its excellence in non-STEM areas, but those areas are already strong and don’t require nearly as much investment. It will be interesting if Chicago tries to be bold and ramp up its investments in STEM now while other peers are cost-cutting during Covid. Chicago took a similar contrarian approach during the financial crisis of 2008. Yes, it left Chicago with more debt but the investments during that timeframe clearly enhanced Chicago’s standing. Lesson learned: never let a crisis go to waste.

Kaukauna, I agree with your definition of politician LOL.

Let’s get the Obama Presidential Center built ASAP and fer God’s sake, don’t defund the UCPD. It’s about time that Mayor Lightfoot, a Chicago alum, finally decided to crack down on the violence in her city and call out the looters for who they really are.

@Zoom10 Defunding UCPD is not widely supported by the U of C community. You may hear a few hundred College students loudly protesting for it but I doubt even the majority of the College students supporting the proposal. I have yet to see any professional schools students supporting it.

This is my proposal: if you don’t want UCPD protection, go live in Englewood or even Washington Park west of Dan Ryan. Rent is much cheaper and it is a short ride on CTA bus to campus. See how they like it there. Basically they have no right to deprive the majority of us of the U of C and Hyde Park/Kenwood/Woodlawn community from UCPD protection.

Apparently the mob tried to break into a nearby Ronald McDonald House that night as well. They smashed the front windows but couldn’t breach the security entrance. Families and sick children were inside. Those parents who opted to bring their child to Chicago for cancer treatment probably didn’t factor in the additional fear and stress of an out-of-control crime wave. Lurie Children’s is right near the Mag Mile so what’s to keep this from happening again? The area has been hit twice already this summer. Can’t even imagine what these poor families are dealing with right now.

Here’s some very interesting evidence about UChicago’s near-term plans for capital investment which is disclosed in the Fitch bond ratings report of August 14 (

The relevant text is copied below:

“Additional strategic capital investments, including a new science and engineering building, computational sciences building and other initiatives, may be brought for Board consideration and/or authorization within the next few years, but incremental cash flow expenses associated with such projects would likely be concentrated in fiscal 2022 and beyond. The university does not currently anticipate additional long-term new-money debt issuance through calendar year 2021. Capital investment requirements for research could be significant (about $250 million net of philanthropy and other sources identified) though Fitch expects them to be supported in part by funding from various government agencies, non-government sponsors and fundraising.”

The Fitch report is based on interviews with university administration and the hint of new capital investments in science/engineering and computational sciences buildings is very encouraging, and suggests that the Board will seek a STEM-oriented person as Chicago’s next president.