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David Campbell to Step Down as Provost

Returns to research, University will launch search

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President Robert A. Brown says he is grateful for Provost David Campbell’s tireless efforts “to make Boston University a better institution and for doing so with unfailing good humor and generosity of spirit.”

University Provost David Campbell will step down to return to teaching and to focus on the research projects he set aside more than five years ago when he assumed the position of chief academic officer. Campbell, a well-known scholar and theoretical physicist, who specializes in nonlinear phenomena and condensed matter physics, received the American Physical Society’s 2010 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize, awarded for “pioneering new approaches to the study of complex systems and for communicating the excitement of this new field to diverse audiences.” He will continue as University provost while an international search is conducted for his successor.

“Over the past year, I have had many conversations — with President Brown, my family, and others — about my own long-term goals and plans,” Campbell wrote in an e-mail sent to faculty last night. “After much careful thought and deliberation, I have concluded that I cannot in good faith make the long-term commitment that Boston University needs from those going forward in senior leadership roles.

“These last five years have been fast-paced and exhilarating,” he wrote. “Together we have accomplished much. In the last year alone, we have seen the implementation of key recommendations of the report of the Council on Faculty Diversity and Inclusion, the issuance of the task force report “One BU: Unlocking the Undergraduate Educational Experience,” the completion of the report of the task force on non-tenure-track faculty, and most recently, the successful launch of the University Honors College. We are well placed to follow through on these and other important initiatives that will forge the future of Boston University.”

Brown, writing in the same message, thanked Campbell for his tireless efforts “to make Boston University a better institution and for doing so with unfailing good humor and generosity of spirit.

“The commitment and sacrifices a faculty member makes to an institution to serve in a leadership role is larger than many of us can imagine,” said Brown. “This is especially true of the role of the University provost, which is, without a doubt, our most demanding academic leadership position.”

Brown pointed to the progress the University has made in many areas under Campbell’s leadership, including strides in achieving gender equity in faculty salaries and in making salaries more competitive with their peers’. “David fostered the increasing quality of the University in everything he did as provost,” he said, “whether in working with our deans to hire or retain faculty or finding the resources to support innovation in education and research.”

Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio described Campbell as “an individual of the highest order of moral and ethical standards.

“David has been a calm and objective voice of reason and an effective leader who has a rare and extremely broad understanding of the varied programs of the University,” Mercurio said. “While he has accomplished a great deal over the last five years by any standard, his most important contribution may very well have been during his interim appointment, when he was largely responsible for providing stability and constructive leadership during a period of great uncertainty for Boston University.”

Brown said the University will hire an experienced search consultant and will work collaboratively to solicit input and advice and to review candidates. “It is my goal to find a distinguished scholar and researcher with extensive senior leadership experience,” he said, “so that we will have a seamless transition and continue to move the University forward.”

The provost is Boston University’s chief academic officer, responsible for guiding the educational and budget policies for all of the Charles River Campus schools and colleges, comprising more than 27,000 students and nearly 2,300 faculty. The provost also oversees many research centers, institutes, administrative offices, and social programs.

Before his appointment as provost in September 2005, Campbell served as provost ad interim for a year and as dean of the College of Engineering for four years. He led the college through a period of rapid and dynamic growth, including the receipt in 2001 of a Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award that provided $14 million for biomedical engineering.

Campbell came to BU as ENG dean in fall 2000, after eight years as a professor and head of the department of physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Previously, he was director of the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which he had joined in 1974 as the first J. Robert Oppenheimer Fellow. He earned a B.A. in chemistry and physics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and applied mathematics from Cambridge University. After graduating, he held postdoctoral positions at UIUC and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

8 Comments

8 Comments on David Campbell to Step Down as Provost

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 9:15 am

    Booooooooring!

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 9:51 am

    Maybe they can get someone in that can actually run a university.

  • Benjamin on 04.21.2010 at 10:11 am

    What's the Big Deal

    Sounds like this guy did more for faculty than students. Of course they all love him yet most students don’t even know what he does. Thanks for wasting our money on another overpaid figurehead BU.

  • Joseph on 04.21.2010 at 11:00 am

    regarding the boooring comment

    First I would like to say I think we should put our email address or at least our real names on our comments. This anonymity of comments is absurd I feel like I’m looking at yahoo comments. My mother told me “if you have nothing nice to say, keep it to yourself”. I would also like to say I could never prove my competence. When someone reads an article like the one that was thoughtfully written above and then they get a comment about it being boring that’s when I draw the line.
    Let’s see hmmm was the article written important to the University? Yes, so why would it be boring? Maybe to a student whose biggest contribution to society was he tweeted there was a great rave in Allston. He’s probably a student who wanted to hear how Facebook is changing the world with one silly frivolous app at a time. Or maybe he’s worried where he’s going to get his next Old English forty because his parents forgot to send him his allowance. I realize I’m being gender specific, but I would bet it’s a male. Only because I’m a male and that kind of comment comes from people who watch butt head and beavis instead of doing their homework. You are DOLT my friend. It’s very important when a man with the credentials Dave Campbell has steps down. Science is important to every University, that’s where the bulk of the money comes from. No not your measly contribution from your parents of 38,000 dollars. Ohh wait and the bean burrito you bought at the student Union.
    While you’re deciding what girl you want to rub on, the University Provosts are trying to figure out how to spend millions of dollars they help bring in. While you’re watching South Park, they look at the curriculum your so willing to circumvent. While your researching what to watch on netfliks, they’re looking for research grants. While you’re trying to get with the cool group on campus, they are the cool group who makes this University one of the most regarded in the whole world. Keep your boooooring comments to yourself.
    Signing off
    To life, liberty and the pursuit of a good education
    Joseph yep that’s my real name

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 12:24 pm

    Why you say “booooring”?

  • Canopy19 on 04.21.2010 at 5:32 pm

    At the person who wrote the paragraph long thing a couple comments down, I think we should be friends.

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 6:48 pm

    Campbell far from boring

    Sadly it comes across as if none of you have ever had the privilege of meeting or working with this very smart, keenly sharp, and especially considerate professional who peers highly respect. Even at his busiest, when at Illinois or when back for a visit, he always took time to speak when we passed in the hall plus he’d often send a note of appreciation or take time to leave a surprise, thoughtful post-it note on the desk of this staff person – a rare gentleman, scientist and leader who BU was fortunate to have in upper administration for so long. He demonstrated he cares about students & staff, often.

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2010 at 7:30 pm

    RE: regarding the booooooring comment

    Joe,
    I think your points are spot-on regarding the relevance of the article to student life at BU. I think any major change such as this is important and students should be made aware of it via a public forum.
    However, I’d just say that the “boooooring” comment may just indicate a lack of interest by some students and a one word comment incited you to write a paragraph. Clearly you’re more concerned about the status-quo than student x who wrote the comment. I wish you had spent your paragraph supporting Campbell rather than ripping into this kid.
    I’m not a supporter of Campbell’s time as Provost and I think he could have spent the money brought in (grant, tuition, and donations) much better but I also think he worked hard to solicit donations, grants etc… I posted the “What’s the big deal” comment and I stand by it. All I can say is that, although this is one of the better universities in the world, it’s not top tier but charges more than most top tier schools. We get a great education but it’s very very expensive. I think he should have cut costs more than find grants because grants are finite, most cost saving measures are not.
    So, I guess I’d say that if your mother taught you to bite your tongue when you have a criticism, don’t rip apart someone who doesn’t agree with you. Especially when you do so based solely on presumed steryotypes. It makes you appear to be both an ass and overzealous. Take the high road next time.

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