Emory Report

April 20, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 29

The job is hers to keep:
Chopp named provost

The Board of Trustees Executive Committee last week approved the appointment of Rebecca Chopp as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, effective May 1. In making the appointment, President Bill Chace said Chopp is "a person of considerable academic strength and reputation, a person whose personal, diplomatic and strategic skills will move Emory rapidly ahead as a first-rate university. She is a human being with the virtues of resilience, patience and tenacity of mind, and an individual with an excellent moral compass."

Although Chopp had served as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs since last June, Chace pointed out that position had its advantages and disadvantages. "It gave her a platform to show her strengths; it also offered her a stage on which to fail. Luckily enough for Emory, the first came to pass." Chace noted the provost's position will carry an expanded budgetary responsibility, more involvement with faculty planning and more concern with the use of Emory's academic facilities.

Chopp replaces Billy Frye, who served as provost from 1988 to 1997, when he became chancellor. Frye was a biologist, and Chopp is a theologian. "Rebecca Chopp is a theologian with strong humanistic interests; that has been her career, but her deepest concerns are with the building of academic excellence in every area and in all the schools," said Chace. "She is catholic in her concerns, broad-gauged in her learning, fair in all of her responses."

"Rebecca Chopp is not only an outstanding theologian, scholar and teacher, but while serving as interim provost, she has demonstrated her remarkable capacity to synthesize multiple and often competing perspectives and to provide the kind of clarity and leadership a great university needs from its chief academic officer," said Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs.

Although Chopp said she plans to spend the next six months listening and learning, she admitted she had developed a three-page platform for her vision for Emory that she used during the interview process. "The most important thing to do now is to focus on a well-rounded approach to the quality of academic life," she said. "There are no enormous problems; we just need to determine the next level of academic quality and be driven by our own standards. Emory must have, at its heart, a strong college of arts and sciences. Emory's professional schools, like in all great research universities, model scholarship on the same standards of excellence and discovery as the college. Because of the strength of its college and the professional schools, and the compactness of Emory's physical size, we have wonderful opportunities for building bridges in a way that few universities do."

Chopp also outlined her four priorities as provost but said she expects to have more after her listening period. "First, I want to help orchestrate Emory's academic narrative," she said. "Emory is going through a major life cycle, and we're ready to move to the next stage-some say from adolescence to adulthood. We can become a model and write a new narrative for higher education."

Chopp's second priority is to focus intentionally on Emory's intellectual community. "We need to increase the texture of our life together at Emory; there needs to be more interaction between faculty, more interaction between students and faculty. We've had a commitment from that beginning with Choices & Responsibility; now is the time to start on a level of implementation."

Chopp third priority is to focus on investing in faculty and issues of strategic faculty governance. And lastly, she said, "I also want to embrace Bill Chace's commitment to a team approach in leadership, making sure that we have the right people around the table. I'm very excited to work with Bill Chace and the deans, and I'm very happy for this opportunity to come from the faculty and to serve Emory in this way," said Chopp. "I'm determined to keep my connections with the faculty and with students. I'll really miss teaching, but I'm going to be working with students in new ways."

Harvey Klehr, Mellon Professor of Politics and History and chair of the search committee, said Chopp's appointment wasn't a fait accompli. "The consensus of the search committee was that Rebecca was the strongest candidate," said Klehr. "She impressed everybody with her vision of where Emory should be going and with her organizational skills. Rebecca was the outstanding candidate in a field of outstanding candidates."

The search committee selected three candidates for Chace to consider. "The committee received letters and e-mail reactions from many people in the university, including many deans, and Rebecca was a strong favorite with many people who were impressed with the job she has done this past year," said Klehr. "We all talked to Chace and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, and a very substantial majority of the committee thought Rebecca was the strongest candidate."

From 1993-1997 Chopp served as dean of faculty and academic affairs at Candler. She also chaired the Commission on Teaching from January 1996 through September 1997 and was named the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Theology at Candler in 1996. She is widely published in the fields of women's studies, Christian theology and the role of religion in American public life.

­Jan Gleason

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