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Don Michael Randel elected 12th President of the University of Chicago


Don Michael Randel has been chosen by the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees to serve as the University's 12th President, effective July 1, 2000. Randel is currently provost of Cornell University. The Board acted on the recommendation of the Trustee Presidential Search Committee, which worked closely since July with an advisory committee of University faculty members.

Randel will succeed Hugo F. Sonnenschein, who has served as President since 1993. Sonnenschein announced in June of this year his decision to serve for a seventh and final year before returning to teaching and research in the University’s Department of Economics.

“It is with great and unanimous satisfaction that we have chosen Don Randel to serve as President of the University of Chicago,” said Edgar Jannotta, Chairman of the Board and Chair of the Search Committee. “Don was an early favorite of our committee, and he maintained that position even as we considered hundreds of candidates. He impressed us enormously both personally and professionally. He is a distinguished scholar with an appreciation for research across disciplines, and he understands the University’s intellectual environment. The process of working with our faculty colleagues on this search was itself a satisfying experience, and it has now proven also to be wonderfully productive.”

Randel himself said, “The University of Chicago is, I believe, the supreme example of what a university dedicated to the fundamental ideals of intellectual inquiry and expression should be. Its unique profile on the landscape of higher education derives in great degree from its commitment without compromise to an intellectual tradition of the highest order.

“This makes it a community that I would be honored to join in almost any capacity, certainly as a member of the faculty or indeed as a student. I am therefore deeply honored to serve as its President, and in this capacity, to work with faculty, students, staff, alumni and its many friends to continue and strengthen its great traditions. That the University is so much a part of the fabric of one of the world’s great cities adds to this honor considerable excitement for both me and my wife, Carol.”

As provost of Cornell, Randel is the leading academic officer after the president. Cornell’s president, Hunter R. Rawlings III, appointed Randel as provost in 1995.

“The Selection Committee and Trustees of the University of Chicago have made a superb choice,” Rawlings said. “Don Randel’s leadership will be felt not only at Chicago, but throughout the nation.

“Don has been an exemplary member of the Cornell community since he first joined the music department as an assistant professor in 1968. Rising through the professorial ranks, he was elected the Harold Tanner dean of the college of arts and sciences in 1991, and I have been privileged to have him by my side over the last four and one-half years as provost. He is both a wonderful colleague and a close friend. Cornell has benefited enormously from his intelligence, integrity, energy, powers of persuasion and commitment to students.

“I will miss Don and his wife, Carol, here in Ithaca, but I look forward to working with them in the years ahead. They are and will be a great team.”

Randel, 59, is a distinguished scholar of music with special interests in music of the Renaissance and Middle Ages. He served as editor of the New Harvard Dictionary of Music (1986), the Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (1996) and the Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1999). He grew up in Panama, where his father owned a small business, and received A.B., M.F.A. and Ph.D. degrees in music from Princeton University. He has been an Honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a Danforth Graduate Fellow and a Fulbright award winner. He served as editor in chief of the Journal of the American Musicological Society from 1972 to 1974 and as the society’s vice president from 1977 to 1978. He also has served on the advisory or review committees of many other universities.

In addition to his scholarly work and teaching, Randel has served at Cornell in several administrative posts, including department chair, vice provost, associate dean of the college of arts and sciences, dean of the college and provost.

“In my various administrative capacities, I have tried to remember that most of the good ideas come from the faculty, and it is the job of administrators to help make them realities,” he said. “I also believe we do best when we align our administrative goals as closely as possible with our academic objectives. It is those objectives that can best guide how we spend and invest our resources.”

Among the ideas he has helped to make manifest at Cornell are an increase in interdisciplinary collaborations; new facilities for theater, music and the architecture school; increased investment in the Cornell high-energy synchrotron source; improvements in the quality of the living and learning environments for undergraduate students, including new residence halls and programming; and greater support for the facilities, collections and programs of the campus libraries. Randel said he also is proud to have persuaded some of Cornell’s most distinguished faculty to serve in administrative positions, creating what he called “a very clear and strong faculty voice in the administration.”

Frank Richter, the Sewell L. Avery Distinguished Service Professor in Geophysical Sciences, is the Chairman of the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Trustee Search Committee. He explained that the committees pursued their work on the basis of some fairly specific expectations.

“We developed a set of criteria to help us judge the candidates and their fit to lead the University of Chicago,” he said. “On all the criteria––personal academic distinction; understanding of and ability to articulate and defend the values of higher education, especially those of the University of Chicago; experience running large parts of a complex university; and maintaining relations with alumni and friends and facilitating fund raising––Randel earned the highest possible marks. You really couldn’t ask for a more perfect match.”

Sonnenschein commented on both Randel’s qualifications for the role and good fortune.

“Don is an outstanding scholar and a highly successful academic administrator. Perhaps more important, he has a perfect sense of the value of universities in general and of the University of Chicago in particular. As President, he will have the privilege and satisfaction of turning his energies to the advancement of the most precious gem in all of higher education. Because of his scholarly values, I am certain he will feel––as I did every day for the past seven years––more truly at home at this University than anywhere else. This truly is the best job in higher education, and I look forward to returning to research and teaching here knowing Don will be succeeding in it.”

Jannotta praised Sonnenschein’s achievements, including changes that strengthened the University both academically and financially.

“Sonnenschein has been a dedicated and innovative leader. He made fund raising a priority and substantially improved the rate of growth of the endowment. He gathered the resources and assembled the team that made the College more attractive to more of the nation’s very best students. He initiated a Campus Master Plan that promises increased capacity for Regenstein Library, state-of-the-art laboratories, new dormitories and athletic facilities, a new campus for the Graduate School of Business, a dining commons and much more, all to be built within the next few years.

“It has been a privilege to work with him,” Jannotta added, “and we can look forward to reaping the benefits of his initiatives for many decades to come.”

Like his predecessors, Randel will reside in the President’s house, which was built for the University’s first president, William Rainey Harper. The Randels have four daughters, all relatively recent college graduates. They are Amy Constable Keating (Harvard ’92); Julia Randel (Yale ’93); Emily Constable Pershing (Brown ’94); and Sally Randel Eggert (Cornell ’97).


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