is palpable at Emory, a blooming and buzzing of classes held
outdoors, professors eating lunch al fresco on Caffè
Anticos balcony, clusters of T-shirt-clad students laughing
and chatting as they cut across the grassy Quad.
William Murdough Chace, whose office overlooks the heart of
campus, has stopped resisting this glorious April day.
you mind if we go outside? he asks.
with that Chace, sans suit jacket, takes leave of the confines
of the Administration Building and crosses over the Mizell Drive
bridge behind the Carlos Museum, pausing briefly to consult
his schedule on a modified Blackberry.
the Universitys eighteenth president, is planning to step
down this fall once a successor is seated. He is preparing for
his final State of the University address and is in a relaxed,
a picnic table by the stream that runs through the cool, dappled
shade of the Baker Woodlands, Chace admits to taking special
pride in these verdant spots on Emorys campus.
his arrival in 1994, he saw an urgent need to reduce the number
of cars on campus and to protect the shrinking green space.
We owed it to ourselves to have the most attractive, workable
campus we could, he says.
oversaw the creation of a campus master plan in 1997 by Baltimore
architectural firm Ayers/Saint/Gross that relegated private
vehicles to the outskirts, linked buildings with brick paths
and wide sidewalks, created piazzas with benches and fountains,
and maintained natural areas of wooded hills and deep ravines.
must create an oasis of learning and conversation, he
said at the time, a sacred place wherein the intellectual
life of the University can be enhanced, and a perimeter to the
campus so that one knows when one has entered upon Emory and
when one has departed from it.
Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement William
H. Fox 79PhD, a close friend and colleague, recalls Chace
encouraging everyone from senior staff to students to rely more
heavily on bicycles, shuttles, and shoe leather
to get aroundas does Chace himself, who bikes or walks
to his office many mornings from his Lullwater home.
the physical integrity of Emorys campuses, both in Atlanta
and Oxford, has remained a priority for Chace during his stewardship
of the University, even as crews worked almost nonstop on nearly
a billion dollars of new construction over the past nine years.
completed under his tenure include the Cherry Logan Emerson
Center for Physical Science, the Goizueta Business School, the
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, the Whitehead Biomedical
Research Building, the Mathematics
and Science Center (one of the greenest buildings
in the country), the Winship Cancer Institute, Oxford Colleges
Tarbutton Performing Arts Center, and the long-awaited Donna
and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
than a few highly accomplished faculty members have been attracted
by these state-of-the-art structures, with their impressive
array of high-tech features and space enough to sprawl out in.
These are very important, very good buildings, Chace
says. Not a bad legacy, coming as it does from a president
who, in his inaugural address, vowed to cut down on new buildings!
as Chace explores the grounds this spring day, he appears to
appreciate the Chairs Projectan artistic exhibition of
benches, swings, and other creative seats showcased around campus
as much as the millions of dollars in new bricks and mortar.
little things like this that make such a huge difference to
the feeling of a place, he says, gesturing toward a musical
chair with wind chimes that jangle in the breeze. You
cant have too much wit or sense of fun.
ALL ITS SOUTHERN CHARM,
Emory is an expansive enterprise. With more than 19,000 employees
spread across nine schools and its broad network of clinics
and hospitals, it has become Atlantas third largest employer.
University itself has more than 2,300 full-time faculty and
11,000 students, and the groundbreaking research and expertise
found at Emory as it heads into the twenty-first centuryin
disciplines as diverse as genetics and African-American literaturerival
the best in the world.
though Emory has had substantial losses in its portfolio during
the economic downturn of the last several years, it remains
one of the most well-off private universities in the country,
with a $4.2 billion endowment and an annual budget of $1.86
Chaces tenure, sponsored research at Emory has risen from
$118 million to $277 million, funding vital study in areas from
immunology to bioterrorism. Emory was admitted to the Association
of American Universities in 1995a prestigious group of
the nations top research universities.
is our destiny. Not as a liberal arts college, but as a thriving
research university, Chace says. Look at Yerkes;
it is the single best example of incandescent productivity on
our campus. When I arrived here, it was almost entirely a primatology
center. Now its one of the world centers for vaccine research.
That took hiring, it took imagination, it took strong leadership.
It might be the place where we will create an AIDS vaccine.
If we had decided, Oh no, better not do that, better not
enlarge that, better not hire those people, what a big
mistake that would have been.
has had a strong hand in selecting Emorys current leadership:
he has hired every sitting dean as well as two provosts.
of Bills legacies will be his appointment of the strongest
cohort of deans weve ever had. In a couple of instances,
he started the search over when an appropriate candidate was
not found or worked very hard to woo the applicant desired.
His personal involvement made all the difference, says
Gary S. Hauk 91PhD, vice president and secretary of the
also established the Presidential Advisory Committee, a group
of senior faculty elected by their colleagues to assist the
president and provost in determining tenure and promotions.
This peer-driven process, says Hauk, has standardized
tenure review across all schools and raised the bar for faculty
complications of owning and operating two hospitals, a clinic,
geriatric and pediatric facilities, as well as staffing a veterans
medical center and a public, inner-city hospital can sometimes
add up to a splitting headache, says Chace, caused
by malpractice suits, hurried and harassed doctors, too
few nurses, insurers who do not want to insure, a federal government
stingy with reimbursements, and more and more expensive therapies
with no one who wants to pay for them.
the cure, he says, is in knowing that the research conducted
at Emory will give life where life has been in peril and that
tireless doctors are exploring the innermost recesses of scientific
knowledge to lessen pain, cure diseases, and offer balm to those
Chaces predecessor, James Laney, who served as president
from 1978 to 1993 before becoming U.S. ambassador to South Korea,
led Emorys rise to national prominence, Chace may be said
to have guided the University to international stature.
expresses pride in the Universitys increasingly diverse
student body and faculty: a third of Emorys students are
ethnic and racial minorities; an active overseas study program
sends almost half of undergraduates to study in other countries;
Emorys students now come from more than a hundred countries;
and the Class of 2007 will likely include one international
student in every seventeen.
has been done to advance tolerance among Emorys diverse
populations, as well. I think Bills finest hour
was his steadfast determination to protect freedom from prejudice
in matters of sexual orientation along with our already established
openness in matters of race, gender, religion, and ethnicity,
says Emory College Dean Robert Paul. Emory is a more accepting
community now than it was, and Bill deserves much of the credit
firmly believes that unlike universities of old, which took
pride in being self-contained ivory towers of intellectual elitism,
a modern university must reach out to the world beyond its gatesespecially
during such volatile times.
Chace was called upon to lead Emory through days of stark terror
and grief. In the hours following September 11, 2001, he addressed
the Emory community with characteristic eloquence: The
worst of public and private tragedies has come at last to us.
Once it inhabited only our nightmares; today the nightmare pierced
our waking lives. . . . What we do now in the face of that danger
will prove a great test for us all, for us within this sheltered
community and for us all as American citizens. . . . Institutions
like universities must never tremble in the face of adversity,
no matter how severe; and we must forever find the way to love,
for love alone will at last shelter us.
a few days after American forces bombed Iraq, Emory organized
a nonpartisan forum for faculty, staff, and students at Chaces
urging. A crowd of fifteen hundred gathered on the Quad, listening
respectfully to speakers with varying points of view about the
hostilities. It was truly one of those public moments
where a university fulfills itself, Chace says.
faculty and students, he says, have performed many good works
through travel abroad, exchange programs, and international
field work, as well as their affiliations with other agencies
and institutions such as The Carter Center and the federal Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two former CDC directorsPresidential
Distinguished Professor Emeritus William Foege and Jeffrey Koplan,
vice president for academic health affairsjoined Emory
after leaving the agency. Many Emory students have internships
and subsequent careers with The Carter Center and the CDC, and
Emory professors work closely with the staffs of both institutions.
Chaces get together with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter about once
a month (President Carter, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace
Prize, has been a University Distinguished Professor since 1982)
and the talk routinely turns to Emory and The Carter Centers
joint efforts to help the destitute and ill around the globe,
from the Guinea Worm eradication program to safeguarding elections.
One of Emorys unique features is that, as a research
university, it enjoys a strong relationship to an institutionThe Carter Centerbased wholly on activist and moral principles,
Chace says. The relationship is mutually beneficial.
feels strongly about Emory being a good neighbor in Atlanta
as well. His presidency was bookended by two Habitat for Humanity
homes, one built in 1995, the other in 2003. We want to
make it very clear that we care about the community in which
we live, says Chace, who worked on both homes, hefting
a hammer and gluing insulation alongside his wife, JoAn. It
is a gesture both real and symbolic, and is also a good way
to get to know colleagues.
controversy, and criticism are inevitable in any high-level
management position, says former Provost Billy Frye, who worked
closely with Chace for many years and eased his transition into
of Chaces strengths, Frye says, is in listening
to all the heterogeneous voices and trying to find outcomes
that are fair to all parties. Bills good humor,
his tolerance for openness and differing points of view, have
served him well, he says.
Chace proved to be a popular president among many faculty, who
viewed him as accessible and witty with an intellectual bent,
he also received criticismmost strongly in response to
employee benefit cuts announced in 2002 after Emorys endowment
lost about a billion dollars in the bear market.
a March letter to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Professor
of English John Bugge, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology
Melvin Konner, and Professor of History James Roark criticized
the cuts: This broken promise has undermined trust and
demoralized our faculty. It bodes ill for Emorys future.
As a result, we have lost excellent colleagues and retention
and recruitment of quality faculty is now more difficult.
an interview with Emory Report, the faculty and staff newspaper,
Chace said a reduction in fringe benefits was preferable to
other, more drastic measures later, such as layoffs. We
havent had to discuss unpleasant financial decisions for
quite some time at Emory, he said. We now have to
deal with unpleasant realities. We will do so, and we will come
out of this all right.
seems to view all such internal squabbles and discontentments
as dimming before the greater good.
believe what holds a university together, finally, is a common
pursuit of the truth, that elusive, never-ending quest,
he says. A university is an unusual place, where people
are being educated, where there is learning, and where there
are young people maturing. It is not a profit-making institution,
but one where a good deal of time is given over to reflectionwhere
you have a library, and a big green sward, and people conversing.
is a grand, collective enterprise.
of the perks of the Emory presidency is having use of Lullwater
House, a 1920s Tudor-Gothic mansion surrounded by 185 acres
of woods and a lake.
Chaces enjoy practicing Tai Chi on the back lawn in the
morning, an Eastern martial art form that combines meditation
and exercise, about which JoAn Chace has written a book, Ride
the Tiger to the Mountain: T'ai Chi for Health. In the evenings,
they take walks with their Jack Russell terriers over grounds
where Cherokee and Creek tribes once hunted.
Chace, who also has a doctorate in literature and is a senior
lecturer in Emorys Department of English, spearheaded
the development of Friends of Emory Forest to reestablish the
canopy of native hardwoods on campus, trees like white oak,
hickory, tulip poplar, and loblolly pine. The campaign has had
a recent, tangible success. The bluebirds are coming back
to Lullwater, she said.
Chaces have enjoyed family time at Lullwater with their two
grown children, Kate and Will, who live in Atlanta and join
their parents for dinner most Sundays.
house and grounds also provided the Chaces an elegant space
in which to host dinner parties and receptions for small groups
of students, colleagues, and honored guests, including the Carters,
Irish poet Seamus Heaney, CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour,
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama.
Laureate Heaney, during a visit in the spring of 1997, watched
with the Chaces from Lullwaters roof as Hale Bop comet
sailed brilliantly and silently above the summer night.
Heaney recalled the moment during this years Commencement,
where he gave the keynote address: Our sense of wonder
remained as innocent and wide open, as if we had been carried
back among the astronomers and astrologers of ancient Babylon.
as enjoyable as it has been to live in, the grand house has
never been truly ours, said Chacein that it belongs,
always, to Emory.
he steps down, Chace will take a years sabbatical, and
plans to spend much of it in a cottage on Long Island Sound
in Mystic, a quaint fishing village in Connecticut, with JoAn.
During the eighteenth century, ships would set sail out
of Mystic and go to China, or on whaling expeditions,
the sabbatical, Chacewho holds a doctorate in literature
from the University of California at Berkeley, and is the author
of two books, The Political Identities of Ezra Pound and
T.S. Eliot and Lionel Trilling: Criticism and Politicsplans
to return to Emory one semester a year to research, write, and
teach literature courses.
is familiar territory: before becoming president of Wesleyan
University in 1988, Chace was a literature professor at Stanford
for twenty years. He also had a tenured appointment in English
at Emory during his presidency, teaching undergraduate courses
on James Joyce, Shakespeare, Melville, and modern fiction and
fact, it was during a class trip to Dublin and Belfast in the
fall of 2002 with the fifteen students in his freshman seminar
on Irish literature and history that Chace realized he was ambitious
to recover the person I was decades ago.
he says, the decision to leave the presidency wasnt a
sure there will be some interesting existential moments. For
a long time, my schedule has been dictated by the demands of
the University, Chace said. But I havent felt
any regret. Id worn myself a little thin and I really
want another good chapter of teaching and writing.
feel like Odysseus, coming home again to Ithaca. My Ithaca is
Colleagues talk about Bill Chace