Northwestern president-elect steps down after cancer diagnosis

Renowned economist Rebecca Blank would have been the first woman to serve as Northwestern’s president.

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Rebecca Blank is stepping down as president-elect of Northwestern University because of a cancer diagnosis.

Rebecca Blank is stepping down as president-elect of Northwestern University because of a cancer diagnosis.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s president-elect is stepping down after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, school leaders said Monday.

Renowned economist Rebecca Blank was selected in October to replace outgoing President Morton Schapiro and would have been the first woman to serve as Northwestern’s president.

“I do not have the words to express to you how disappointed and sad I am to be telling you this,” Blank wrote in a message to the university community Monday. “I was excited to be joining you at Northwestern, a world-class institution that is near and dear to my heart.”

Blank spent the past eight years as the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She and her husband are returning to the Madison area for her cancer treatment.

Northwestern’s board of trustees has asked Schapiro to stay on while it searches for a new president. More information about the new search process will be shared “in the coming weeks,” the university said.

Blank has researched poverty and the low-income labor market. She served in three presidential administrations as an economics expert. Blank also served on the faculty of Northwestern’s Economics Department from 1989 to 1999 and was the director of a poverty research center in partnership with the University of Chicago.

A 34-member search committee unanimously recommended Blank to the board of trustees in the fall, and she was announced in early October. Blank was set to take over from Schapiro this summer.

“I ask that all of us at Northwestern keep Becky in our thoughts,” Schapiro said in a statement.

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