U. of C. to begin search for a new president

Robert J. Zimmer announced this week he plans to transition to chancellor in 2021.

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Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, speaking on campus.

Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, plans to transition to chancellor in 2021.

Sun-Times file

The University of Chicago is set to begin a search for a new president after the institution’s leader this week said he plans to transition to chancellor in 2021, the university said Thursday.

Robert J. Zimmer had agreed to serve as president through at least 2022, but told the Board of Trustees Wednesday he now wants to take on the new role as chancellor in June 2021, according to a university news release.

The university noted Zimmer recently underwent surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. He’s now back at work and “responding well to treatment,” officials said.

“The past 14 years as president of the university have been deeply rewarding for me,” Zimmer wrote in a message to the university community. “On one hand, this was due to the opportunity for enhancing the work of the university and our faculty, students, and staff, reaffirming our enduring values and consequent approach to research, education, and impact, and building new partnerships including our global efforts and a deeper engagement with the communities of the South Side of Chicago.

“On the other hand, the rewarding nature of the work I have been engaged in over these years is also due to the personal relationships that have developed with the many individuals with whom I have worked closely over that time.”

Zimmer, the university’s 13th president, began the job in 2006 after he was provost at Brown University. He first joined the University of Chicago in 1977 as an instructor in the math department.

“Many of you have seen firsthand the impact that Bob has had on the university and on those who are part of our distinctive community, and the Board is enormously grateful for the many significant contributions he has made during his tenure,” Board of Trustees Chairman Joseph Neubauer said in a statement.

“During his presidency, the university has enhanced its eminence among the top-ranked research universities in the United States and the world and has strengthened its position as a preferred destination for many of the world’s leading scholars and students.”

Neubauer said the university is expected to quickly assemble a committee to begin the search for a new leader.

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