March 1, 2021
To: Members of the University Community
From: Robert J. Zimmer, President
Subject: The Next President of the University of Chicago
Date: February 26, 2021
The University Board of Trustees and I previously announced that I plan to conclude 15 years of serving as President of the University of Chicago this summer, at which point I will segue into the role of Chancellor. In that role I will focus on key strategic initiatives for the University, supporting the University’s enduring values, maintaining and continuing to build key relationships that span many aspects of University life and work, and high-level fundraising. I will continue to serve as a Trustee of the University. To complete this transition, the Board undertook one of its key responsibilities and began an international search for my successor as president, with a search committee of Trustees chaired by Board Chair Joe Neubauer and advised by a faculty committee based on recommendations of the Council of the Faculty Senate and the deans.
Today the University’s Board of Trustees announced that Paul Alivisatos has been named as the 14th President of the University of Chicago, effective September 1, 2021. Paul is an alumnus of the College of the University of Chicago, and is currently Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a Professor and the Samsung Distinguished Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research in the Department of Chemistry. He previously served as Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy science laboratory in the same DOE laboratory system as Argonne and Fermilab. This outstanding choice will serve the University community and our partners locally and around the world well in the coming years. I have known Paul in our professional capacities, and I have found him to be an extraordinary scholar and academic leader. Moreover, being an alumnus of the College gives him an understanding of and commitment to our distinctive approach to education and research, and to the particular values and meaning that this entails.
The University of Chicago is characterized by a distinctive approach to our work of research, education, and impact, and we share ambitious aspirations for the future. Paul is superbly equipped to serve as President of the University in a way that honors its legacy while building upon it for the next generation of scholars and students. I look forward with great enthusiasm to working with him in my new position as Chancellor of the University, to meet the opportunities and challenges ahead while drawing on the University’s enduring values and distinctive perspective on the importance of intellectual challenge, and the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds that fosters such an environment.
With my 15 years as President coming to a conclusion, I want to express my gratitude for this opportunity and my confidence in the future of the University. I am particularly grateful for the personal relationships that I have developed with people across the University and well beyond. These relationships span all aspects of life at the University, our education and research programs, vital engagement with communities of the South Side of Chicago, our work at the Medical Center and National Laboratories, and our work around the globe. Through shared commitment to this University’s uniquely challenging intellectual environment, together we have made lasting contributions to the University’s support for students and capacity to change the trajectory of families, we have built the conditions for faculty to forge new areas of study with originality, depth, and impact, and we have worked to expand the scope of positive impact that members of the University community have throughout the world, and very importantly built partnerships with citizens, organizations, and elected officials on the South Side of Chicago to work together to enhance the well-being of our South Side communities and the City of Chicago more broadly. This work and these relationships have been deeply rewarding for me, on one hand because they have helped advance the highest aspirations of a University with great meaning and purpose, and on the other because of the opportunity to get to know a remarkable set of individuals of great values who work to manifest these values through work and actions of meaning.
I look forward to working in partnership with Paul on the ever-fresh challenge of setting an ambitious path for the University. In addition to the other areas of focus in my new role, I will support and advise Paul as he establishes perspectives on his many responsibilities as President.
Thank you for your contributions to advancing the vital mission of this University. Please join me in offering Paul a most warm welcome and wishes for continued success.