The University Record, October 9, 1995

President will follow through on commitment

By Jane R. Elgass

No, he has no interest in becoming the Wolverines’ football coach.

No, he’s not planning to become the next dean of the College of Engineering.

No, he’s not planning to take up the presidency of another University.

And, no, he’s not planning to try to stay on as president

What President James J. Duderstadt is planning to do for the next nine months is follow through on the commitment he and his wife, Anne, made to serve the University through June 30.

And they plan to remain part of the “Michigan family” after June 30. “Anne and I are firmly committed to lead this institution and serve as president until midnight June 30,” he says.

In an interview with the Record last week, Duderstadt said he wants to put to rest all the rumors that had been flying around about his future plans.

“We’ve been deluged with requests, proposals, probes from both within and outside the University,” he said. “In fact, within two hours of my announcement to retire, I received a call from the trustees of a major university who were willing to halt their current search.”

The future after June 30 is not yet on the president’s agenda. “It’s a cliff we have not yet looked over,” he said. “It is far too early for Anne and me to think about what we’ll do when I leave this post. That would be distracting. We probably won’t even turn our thoughts to that until after the first of the year. There are too many things to deal with.”

Those things include the Campaign for Michigan, relationships with government officials in both Lansing and Washington, D.C., the Michigan Mandate and the Michigan Agenda for Women.

“I will continue to push very hard for the Mandate and the Agenda as long as I am in office,” the president said.

He also has worked with interim Provost J. Bernard Machen and Farris W. Womack, executive vice president and chief financial officer, to make certain the University runs smoothly during the transition time.

“We have already begun working as a team,” Duderstadt explained. “We will be working together on decisions that in the past might have been the president’s alone. We need to maintain momentum and move through the transition smoothly.”

Asked about following through on his “transformation agenda, Vision: 2017” that was announced in September, the president said: “I believe I have set themes and directions for the institution. It will be up to the next president to evaluate those and provide leadership. Some are very important, and I would like to play a role in their implementation. Any institutionwide effort will be led by the next president.”

Asked about the search for his successor, Duderstadt said that it is “a terribly important search, one that requires consultation and careful thought before the process is designed. The last search took 14 months and some of that time was spent by the Regents in travels around the country to understand the issues facing higher education and gather various perspectives. I would not be surprised if this Board does the same thing.”

Is he more relaxed now that the decision has been made and announced?

“Not really. It was a very difficult decision, but one which I think is in the best interests of the University for many reasons, and I’m comfortable with that,” Duderstadt said.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 years, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We really haven’t even had a vacation. It will be difficult to make the transition from such an all-consuming role—as difficult as you could imagine—and take control of our lives.

“We’re stepping out of roles that most people step into at age 52. Momentum is important to the institution and we’ve been running at peak pace for 10 years. That can’t be sustained forever.”