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President Sonnenschein decides seventh year will be his last

President Hugo F. Sonnenschein has announced that his seventh year as Chicago’s president will also be his last. On June 30, 2000, he will return to teaching and research as a professor in economics at the University.

In a June 3 letter to the University community, the 58-year-old Sonnenschein gave two reasons for his decision to step down next summer: “First, I have come to feel that it is time for another president, one who is less a symbol of change and who has less reason to initiate change, to carry the momentum forward. Second, in order to sustain the aggressive percentage increases in fund-raising that we have achieved, we will need to begin a new University-wide fund-raising campaign.” That campaign, he said, “should bear the stamp—and be viewed as the work and accomplishment—of the twelfth president of the University of Chicago.”

In a joint statement, Howard G. Krane, JD’57, outgoing chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, and incoming chair Edgar D. Jannotta (see story, page 15) stressed the board’s commitment to initiatives begun during Sonnenschein’s presidency, specifically noting its intention “to support unequivocally President Sonnenschein’s initiatives to increase the size of the College over a 10-year period while preserving the quality of undergraduate education and the excellence of our students.”

Calling Chicago’s eleventh president “a dedicated and innovative leader,” Krane and Jannotta said, “It has been a privilege to work with him, and we look forward to continuing this work during the coming year and to seeing the benefit of his initiatives for many decades to come.”

While some of those initiatives have been criticized, Sonnenschein told the Maroon the criticism had no bearing on his decision to step down. “You have to have a certain amount of willingness to take criticism, and I think it has been very well-intentioned and very deeply felt,” he said. “But we’re trying to achieve things that we’re convinced—and the majority of the community is convinced—are the right things to do.”

In the six years since he became the University’s president in 1993—after serving as provost of Princeton University and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania—Sonnenschein has moved to substantially improve Chi-
cago’s financial health, its facilities, and its public profile, especially among prospective students. He launched a plan to gradually increase the size of the College at the same time that the faculty revised its curriculum, and he instituted the first campus master-planning process in 30 years.

An economist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Sonnenschein raised sharply the expectations for fund-raising from U of C alumni and friends; the third year of his presidency saw the completion of the U of C’s five-year Campaign for the Next Century, which raised $676 million—the largest campaign in the University’s history—to support student aid, research, and facilities. During his tenure, the University has also revamped its admissions efforts, resulting in an increased number of applicants with higher SAT scores, and has earmarked substantially greater resources to constructing new facilities and to improving the quality of campus life.

The search process for a successor to Sonnenschein will begin this summer. Appointments to both the trustees search committee and the faculty advisory committee were expected to be announced in early July, and all alumni and other friends are encouraged to submit nominations.—M.R.Y.
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