Nannerl O. Keohane, Duke's eighth president, informed the trustees March 1 that she intends to step down from the office in June 2004. Keohane was president of Wellesley College before leaving to become Duke's president in July 1993. She is the first woman to serve as Duke's president and among the first women to oversee a top research university. Under her leadership, Duke has launched major programs in fields ranging from genomics to ethics, raised more than $2 billion through the Campaign for Duke, established the Duke University Health System, and become a more diverse and international institution.
" I have treasured this experience," Keohane wrote in a letter to the Duke community. "The past ten years have been very rewarding for me personally and professionally. Now, with our bold strategic plan firmly in place, the Campaign for Duke scheduled to conclude in December, and a strong administrative team in office, I believe it's a good time for Duke to move into the next stage of its history as an institution and for me to move on to the next stage of my life."
Keohane, sixty-two, says she has been "wrestling with this decision since June of last year," discussing it with her husband and a few close friends, and is "eager to have several years of active involvement in teaching and research as a political theorist before I retire altogether." In December, she says, she informed Harold "Spike" Yoh B.S.E. '58, who chairs the board of trustees, and the board's two vice-chairs of her decision. Together, they agreed to hold off on making a public announcement until Keohane informed the full board during its winter meeting.
Yoh describes Keohane as "one of the most innovative and successful presidents not only in the history of Duke, but across the country. Duke has blossomed under her leadership, becoming more than just a great regional university to join the top ranks of universities anywhere. She has been a true leader in terms of her integrity, intelligence, and energy, and the university is a stronger, more interesting place because of her. I have no doubt Nan Keohane will be remembered as a major figure in the history of Duke University."
Board vice-chair Robert K. Steel '73 is heading a search committee to select Keohane's successor. Steel, vice chair of Goldman Sachs & Co. and chair of the board of directors of the Duke University Management Co., is expected to be joined on the committee by trustees, faculty, students, and other members of the Duke community.
Keohane says that she and her husband, Robert O. Keohane, James B. Duke Professor of Political Science at Duke, will take a one-year sabbatical leave beginning June 2004. After that, she says, "l look forward to returning to the library, the study, and the classroom and to interactions with colleagues in my field. I have had one of the most challenging and fascinating administrative jobs in all of higher education, and I have learned much from it. Now I want to reflect on what I've learned and connect this with my training and professional experience as a political theorist."
Keohane emphasizes that "Bob and I are very happy here, and we look forward to continuing to be part of the Duke family in the years to come." She also stresses that "there is a great deal that all of us in the Duke community need to accomplish together during the next sixteen months."
Among her top priorities, she says, are to ensure the long-term vitality of the Duke University Health System, meet all of the fund-raising goals of the Campaign for Duke, continue to enhance undergraduate life, and further strengthen Duke's ties with the local community. She underscores her commitment to completing the women's initiative at Duke successfully and to promoting the hiring and retention of minority administrators.