Richard Levin – who has served as the president of Yale University for nearly two decades – has announced his plans to retire at the conclusion of the current academic year. Levin is the longest-serving official in a leadership position in an Ivy League school.
Trained as an economist, the 65-year-old Levin has been a faculty member at the prestigious New Haven, Connecticut college from the time he obtained his Ph.D. in 1974. He ascended to the position of president in 1993. Through his intensive fundraising efforts, Levin enabled Yale’s endowment to reach a high of $19.4 billion, the second-largest endowment among higher education institutions.
Levin’s decision comes at a time of new accomplishments for Yale, which has begun construction of a new business school structure, and just founded a campus in Singapore. Levin feels that executive decisions about the next round of new buildings should be made by his successor. “We have a lot of big projects on the docket, a number of projects that were postponed because of the market crash: two new residential colleges, a new biology building, a science teaching facility, a new home for the drama school,” Levin said. “If we’re going to do these things, these ought to be decisions of a president who is able to be around for at least seven or eight years thereafter, to go out and raise the money to fund these projects.”
During his time in office, Levin has implemented projects both overseas and in the adjacent areas of West Haven and Orange to enhance Yale’s position. “It is a source of great satisfaction to leave Yale in much stronger condition – academically, physically, and financially – than it was when I began in 1993,” Levin stated. “Our faculty is stronger than ever, and our deans and directors all have clear and ambitious agendas that will keep the University moving forward.”
Indra Nooyi, a Yale trustee and CEO of PepsiCo Inc., lauded Levin for his bold and innovative leadership in envisioning how a university can take a leading role within society at home and abroad. “His example has been a guide for how universities around the world can have a much greater impact,” Nooyi said.
The San Francisco-born Levin earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. His economics research centered on industrial organization, including studies of the deregulation of railroads, the patent system and antitrust and the competitiveness of American manufacturing.
In 2007, under Levin’s presidency, Yale University bought a 136-acre health-care complex in West Haven that offered research space, office buildings, warehouses and other facilities. “Rick Levin has been both friend and mentor to me and every other colleague at the helm of colleges and universities, across the country and around the globe,” Harvard President Drew Faust stated. “Throughout his tenure at Yale he has been a tireless spokesperson for the values of scholarship, integrity, and inclusion – values that have bettered our institutions and our sector.”
According to Anthony Kronman, who was Dean of Yale’s law school for a decade, Yale is currently in its most robust condition ever, with a state-of-the-art physical campus as well as the addition of new faculty members and programs. “Yale’s next president faces challenges such as strengthening the new campus in Singapore and the business school,” Kronman added. “The School of Management is not as old as business schools at Harvard or Chicago, and it has a distinctive character of its own.”
As Yale seeks a successor to Levin, the Ivy League is undergoing major transformations within its leadership. Brown University in Rhode Island seated a new president, economist Christina Hull Paxson, on July 1. Dartmouth College is involved in a search for a new head following the departure of Jim Yong Kim at the beginning of July to direct the World Bank.
According to Raymond Cotton, an attorney who works in tandem with university presidents and boards of trustees on important college-related issues, the individual replacing Levin will have to have an inherent awareness of the college’s culture. “I would imagine that internal candidates will have a better chance in this particular search than most,” Cotton said. “There’s a depth of talent at Yale.”
Levin has fashioned the future of university leadership through his cultivation of presidents at elite research colleges. More than six of Yale’s former provosts under Levin have subsequently assumed positions at such storied schools as the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in England, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.