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Robert Meenan to Step Down as SPH Dean

At helm 21 years, led school to national prominence

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University President Robert A. Brown has informed School of Public Health faculty and staff in a letter sent yesterday that Robert Meenan has decided to step down after more than two decades as dean of SPH.

A rheumatologist with master’s degrees in public health and in business administration, Meenan (MED’72, GSM’89), who is also a School of Medicine professor of medicine, oversaw a period of growing student enrollment, expanding research support, and rising national rankings during his tenure as dean. He also oversaw the establishment of SPH’s international health department and the BU-wide Center for Global Health and Development, based at SPH. Under his leadership, the school also took on a more prominent role in the greater Boston community.

Meenan will remain as dean until a successor is in place, after which he’ll move to the Charles River Campus as a special assistant to Brown.

“This is the right time for me to make this change,” says Meenan, who, with 21 years on the job, is the longest serving dean of a school of public health nationwide and the longest serving dean at BU. “With the recent reaccreditation of the school and the timing of the school’s planning process, my stepping down now will give the school and the University time to search for my successor before we have to tackle the next round of internal and external reviews.”

“In his more than two decades as dean, Bob Meenan has led the transformation of SPH into one of the preeminent schools of public health in the nation,” says Brown. “He has nurtured vibrant educational and research programs, and he has built and supported an outstanding faculty. His legacy will be found in the generations of SPH graduates who are helping to transform public health and health care delivery around the world.”

Meenan “has led a succession of strategic plans and their implementation and evaluation, providing a firm base of goals and priorities,” says Karen Antman, provost of the Medical Campus and dean of the School of Medicine. Under Meenan’s watch, she points out, SPH has moved up steadily in the US News and World Report rankings, from 15th to 13th to, most recently, 11th, even as new schools of public health have been established at competitive universities.

“I feel like I have an opportunity to go out on top,” Meenan says. “We have reached an all-time high in student enrollments, our research program continues to grow despite a very difficult funding environment, and we recently achieved a record budget surplus that can be used going forward to support strategic initiatives and space improvements.” He notes that the school has also passed the 60 percent mark of its goal for the Campaign for Boston University. “I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”

It was under Meenan that the department of international health was created. Founded and chaired for many years by the late William Bicknell, the department now offers one of the most popular concentrations in the school’s Master of Public Health program. The other concentrations are biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, health policy and management, maternal and child health, social and behavior sciences, and health law, bioethics, and human rights.

“Bob Meenan further expanded international health at SPH by recruiting Jonathon Simon and his colleagues from Harvard School of Public Health 10 years ago,” says Antman. Simon, who is the inaugural Robert A. Knox Professor, leads the Center for Global Health and Development. “Bob Meenan has very ably managed finances at SPH, skillfully steering the school through an expensive space expansion into the Crosstown building, and more recently, through the financial challenges of sequestration and cuts in federal funding for research,” Antman says.

Initial steps to launch a national search process for a new SPH dean, led by Antman and Jean Morrison, University provost, are expected in the coming weeks.

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Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

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