do you want to be president of Emory?
Emory is in a special position, I’m sure one of the special
moments in its history. Emory University has this opportunity to
be known and to be recognized for being inquiry-based and values-guided,
an educational institution of the highest order.
Inquiry-based, of course, is making reference to the fact that the
University is a research university, and in everything it does,
that should permeate its activities. As to the second part, there
is an ease with which a vocabulary of values is used on this campus;
it’s discernible on even a casual visit.
But there is much room, it seems to me, for Emory to be more evident,
to be more apparent, to be more visible. Not to be different or
blown out of proportion by some slick sales process, but just to
be recognized. I was with [Emory trustee] Jimmy Williams this morning,
and he asked if people in Montana had heard of Emory, and sadly
I don’t think you have to go as far away as Montana [to find
people who haven’t]. So there’s this opportunity simply
to help Emory not brag about itself but to be evident so it can
help make a difference nationally.
Frank Rhodes was the 18-year president of Cornell University, and
he continues to be a wonderful scholar of scholarship and of university
leadership. About five years ago he wrote that the past century
was all about the “Harvardization of America”—everybody
chasing Harvard. For several reasons, Frank writes that he feels
that the future will be more about the de-Harvardization
of America. I choose that to mean Emory can lead by being Emory.
What were your impressions of Emory when you became a candidate?
My impressions were very favorable. Emory has a reputation as a
university on the move; it’s hard to imagine a university
that’s moved more in the last 15–20 years. After having
studied Emory and come here, my impressions have become even more
Let’s put it this way: When the recruiter first called, I
told her that I had great respect for what I understood at Emory,
but I thought it might be best if I declined because I was fully
engaged where I was. If I’d done my studying before she called
me, there wouldn’t have been much hesitation.
You have an engineering
background, and you’re now president of a university without
an engineering school. What do you think about that?
I would like to think the engineering background is foundational
but doesn’t define or restrict who I am and what I can contribute
in leadership. In fact, maybe in some ways it puts a slightly different
spin on it that will be constructively provocative for where the
institution needs to go and the kind of leadership it could benefit
Vocationally, having been called to serve as a provost and also
as an interim president of a comprehensive university, one of the
great recent joys of my career has been to work hard to understand
scholarship in areas outside of the sciences and engineering—and
outside of medicine, for that matter. Specifically, the learning
curve for me has been most steep with regard to the arts, humanities
and social sciences, and I continue to learn.
I would expect to serve in leadership here in such a way that I’ll
have an opportunity to continue to grow and continue to better understand
scholarship across all of academia, at least as it’s assembled
here at Emory. I’m excited about that.
strengths does Emory have, in your mind?
I talked earlier about how Emory should aspire to be a leader with
national and global impact and spread its branches more broadly;
one key is to dig its roots more deeply into what’s already
here and to form strong, truly complementary partnerships with cultural
institutions, other educational institutions, with industry, even
civic organizations. And even here, within the associated structure
of Emory, I imagine there are much greater opportunities for partnership
with entities like the Carter Center.
I put those in the resource category. They’re not necessarily
financial, but imagine some of the creative programs that already
are under way but might be expanded with the Carter Center. If Emory
fails to do that, it really needn’t be located in Atlanta,
right? Why bother? That resource should go to somebody else.
Atlanta is a higher
education center–have you identified any partnerships you’d
like to pursue with other institutions here?
I had a great meeting last week with [Georgia Tech President] Wayne
Clough, and I was well aware of the biomedical engineering program
shared by Emory and Georgia Tech, which almost at conception became
a leadership program. I think there are great opportunities for
more of that, and he agrees.
The Georgia Tech connection is an example, but I’m sure there
are other opportunities to be working more closely with Georgia
State, with Morehouse, with Spelman, Agnes Scott and other universities
in the area.
How did your experience
as interim president at Case Western Reserve
prepare you for this presidency?
The interim presidency at Case was in many ways unique in that it
happened as a result of the sudden departure of the sitting president.
When that kind of a situation takes place, you’ve got two
obvious choices: One is to identify what the institution needs to
be doing during this time frame, commit oneself to that and charge
ahead. And the other is to sort of curl up on the ground in the
fetal position and wait for the next president to come. Choosing
the former turned out to be in an odd way exciting.
How does it have an effect
on preparing one for leadership in the Emory position?
Maybe because it reinforces strongly the value of being clear and
crisp about where we need to go and drawing buy-in from the several
constituencies that really are the University, and seeing
the power in doing that. So maybe that’s the biggest lesson.
just the past five years, you’ve become first a dean, then
a provost, then an interim president, and now you’re becoming
president of a major research university. What do you think about
Why can’t I hold a job? My kids ask the same thing. It has
been a real fast-track, intensive learning period, and there are
ups and down sides to that.
But people who have occasion to speak publicly know that every time
you approach a lectern, there is a right level of butterflies you’re
supposed to have if you’re going to be at the edge to do this
job right. I have experienced the butterflies a few more times,
perhaps, in recent memory, and I’ll tell you that that unrealized
potential, the anticipation of growing in potential with each position,
is something I bring to Emory and look forward to experiencing as
Emory and I grow together.
What’s the proudest achievement of your career?
Well, of career—we would all talk about achievements
in our professional lives, and family is extremely important to
me. It’s hard to be proud of those things because you can’t
convince yourself you were responsible for them, but I certainly
feel blessed and proud of that side.
Of my professional career, it would have to be—and this is
not very exciting—the list of hirings, believe it or not.
I’ve had the good fortune to bring some wonderful people into
an organization to have impact, a number of leaders, faculty members,
deans and staff whom it’s been my privilege to offer positions.
The results of that have been some rather interesting programs and
accomplishments, but the things I’m most proud of center around
How would you
describe your management style?
I would describe it as delegated and objectives-based. Faculty are
just wonderful people, and most of our University administrators
on the academic side have roots as faculty. Part of what makes faculty
special is their entrepreneurial spirit, but this risking spirit—which
you must attract to research universities—also makes those
very same faculty unmanageable, to some degree. So what one needs
to do is take advantage of those gifts.
So my management style, and one I think works well in a university
situation, is to delegate responsibility and be certain to delegate
authority. To challenge people to be explicit about their own objectives,
and to attach accountability to those objectives. So there’s
a little more self-determination, but it’s self-determination
within the guidelines of the vision that is set.
There can be at Emory a tension between the health sciences and
other parts of the University. How would you deal with that?
First of all, it’s unfortunate that it exists. If it’s
a perceived rift, perception is what guides people’s behaviors,
so it might as well be real.
We should look at it from both sides. Let’s take it from the
medical school’s point of view: I can think of no great medical
education and research institution that isn’t also associated
with a great university. Therefore it behooves any medical institution
like that to do whatever it can to ensure that all of the University
Now let’s look at it from the other side: We need to cultivate
a shared pride in all aspects of the University. The great success
of the academic medical center here should not inspire any other
part of the institution to say, “Well, we can do it by ourselves,
too.” As I just said, the academic medical center really can’t
do it by itself, and even if it appears that it has, it’s
All other divisions of the University must have pride in the entire
University and actually embrace the success of the academic medical
center, draw from it, and trust that each of these divisions will
still preserve and grow their own individual identity in partnership
with all the other divisions including medicine. We may need to
say that out loud a lot, and then structure our decisions and our
policies to reinforce that.
last two presidents were a theologian and a scholar of Irish literature.
Now the president is an engineer. What do you think about this apparent
You know, leadership is a lot about ideas and drawing ideas from
people. One of the first jobs of the new president will be to hold
up an enormous mirror to the faculty, a clean mirror, and help them
to recognize who they really are. The power that they have.
Since academic leadership is so much about ideas and soliciting
and integrating those ideas, I’m quite comfortable that the
grand ideas, the great ideas, the valuable ideas, whether they come
from the English department or the theology school, can be solicited
and assembled to Emory’s advantage, even by an engineer.
To be specific, I won’t deny that scientists in general—whether
they’re medical scientists, natural scientists, biological
scientists or engineering scientists—do have more of a linear
thinking process, and that’s part of the discipline of learning.
Liberal learning is supposed to provide people with a discipline
of learning; it’s never the same discipline of learning
for each individual. So I don’t know if that will be noticeable,
but perhaps a more linear approach, a sequential approach to setting
priorities and addressing problems, might be expected.
Do you think that
mental training has made you a better administrator?
I just think it’s made me different. If there’s any
sort of institution that can handle diversity of concepts, ideas
and approaches, as well as diversity of cultures, races and experiences,
it should be the university. So I wouldn’t say “better,”
What are you looking
forward to most?
New colleagues, I think. Nothing against the old colleagues. How
about more colleagues? That’s very exciting to me.
And as I said, being able to serve on what I think already is a
very special platform that Emory represents among elite universities.
I don’t know that even Emory people really understand what
Emory is, and that’s what I mean about holding up a mirror.
Will you have
an academic appointment, and do you plan to teach?
In the meeting we had with the Faculty Advisory Committee, that
question came up, and it’s really a decision I’d like
to ask the faculty to make, though the group in that room thought
it was important that the president seek tenure. Presidents aren’t
uniformly tenured; there are some institutions where the tradition
is the chief academic officer of the university is the provost,
and in those institutions it’s not appropriate to tenure the
president. I would eagerly accept it as evidence of being among
the faculty; in fact, I’d be flattered to be included among
the faculty. But I wouldn’t seek it without their invitation.
Will I teach? The answer is all the time. Will I seek out classroom
opportunities? The answer is probably not initially. I love teaching.
But when you move to administration, you have to evaluate what it
is you enjoyed about doing research, what it is you enjoyed about
teaching, what it is you enjoyed about other academic duties that
could be transferred to your administrative position in other ways.
I would hope to satisfy my continuing desire to learn, yes, through
intensive reading, and I would love at some point to be involved
On the research and discovery side, that’s what I thought
I would miss the most when I left research to go into full-time
administration, and you do miss it a great deal. But when you think
about it, the research and discovery side is about asking questions,
about posing hypotheses, testing those hypotheses, modifying, and
going forward. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of opportunity
for that in administration.
So you take a
researcher’s approach to administration?
I do. And I think most administrators would agree.