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Rutgers President McCormick to step down from post after 10 years on the job
Patti Sapone/The Star-LedgerRutgers President Richard McCormick at his home in Piscataway on Friday.
Rutgers President Richard McCormick will step down next year, ending a historic — and at times tumultuous — decade as head of the state’s largest university.
McCormick, 63, will formally submit his resignation during a special, closed-door meeting of the Rutgers Board of Governors scheduled for noon Tuesday in New Brunswick. That will be followed by an afternoon press conference at which the president will say he is leaving at the end of the 2011-12 school year because it is time for new leadership at the state university.
“As I look ahead to the next year and the years beyond, it’s a good time for Rutgers to make a transition and to be seeking a new president,” McCormick said in a lengthy interview Friday night at his house in Piscataway.
During his tenure, McCormick had great successes, including implementation of a historic restructuring of the 57,000-student university. But he also saw Rutgers’ state funding slashed year after year while critics said he lacked the charisma to be the statewide higher education leader New Jersey desperately needed.
McCormick said his late father, popular Rutgers professor and university historian Richard P. McCormick, once told him every president in Rutgers’ 245-year history had either died in office or been pushed out behind the scenes by governors or board members.
The younger McCormick, Rutgers’ 19th president, said he didn’t want to go out like that.
“His implicit advice for me … was leave on your own terms, leave on your own schedule,” McCormick said. “I wanted to do that. And I am.”
McCormick expects to step down from the $550,000-a-year post in June 2012, which leaves Rutgers a year to complete a nationwide search for a new president.
After a year-long paid sabbatical, McCormick will return to the Rutgers faculty in 2013 as a professor. He said he hopes to teach in the history and graduate education departments on the New Brunswick campus. He also plans to write a book about Rutgers, following up on his father’s well-respected work chronicling the university’s early history.
His new salary will be $335,000 a year, making him one of the highest paid professors at the state university, campus officials said.
Patti Sapone/The Star-LedgerPictured at home in Piscataway with his 16-month-old daughter, McCormick said his new position as a Rutgers professor will allow him to spend more time with his daughter and wife, Joan.
As a professor, McCormick said he will also have more time to spend with his wife of nearly five years, Joan, a former Rutgers fundraiser, and their adopted daughter, Katie, now 16 months old. Though he wakes up early each morning to spend time with his daughter, McCormick said he often doesn’t see the toddler again all day because of his long list of commitments as president.
Ralph Izzo, chairman of Rutgers Board of Governors, said McCormick began dropping hints he was thinking about stepping down nine or 10 months ago.
McCormick made his final decision a few weeks ago letting key university officials know his plans. The rest of the 11-member board was told by phone Friday and McCormick planned to call Gov. Chris Christie this weekend to discuss his departure.
Though McCormick was not prompted to leave by the board, Izzo said he accepted the president’s decision to step down….
Rutgers’ last presidential search, which cost $279,000, did not go smoothly.
McCormick was the early front-runner for the job. He was the son of a beloved Rutgers professor who grew up in Piscataway and attended Amherst and Yale. He returned to Rutgers to become a professor and dean before becoming provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and president of the University of Washington.
But McCormick surprised Rutgers officials when he turned down their job offer in 2002, only to reconsider and accept the post a few weeks later. It was later revealed McCormick was encouraged to leave the University of Washington by board members because they discovered he had an extramarital affair with a subordinate.
Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger McCormick at home with his 16-month-old adopted daughter.
He admitted the affair in a tense 2003 press conference in New Brunswick, with his wife, Rutgers history professor Suzanne Lebsock, by his side. The couple, who have two children now in their 20s, announced they were divorcing the next year. Lebsock remains a Rutgers professor.
After his rough start, McCormick settled into the Rutgers job. He said he is proudest of his restructuring of the university, which unified the semi-independent undergraduate colleges on the New Brunswick-Piscataway campus and eliminated much of the university’s Byzantine structure.
Some alumni fought the restructuring, which included phasing out Douglass College, one of the last degree-granting women’s colleges at a public university. McCormick won the lengthy battle and made the long-needed changes he said unified the university.
“It was a pretty divided and grumpy place when I arrived,” McCormick said. “I think I came at the right moment and my history served me well.”
He also oversaw a 14-percent increase in undergraduate applications, a 13-percent increase in enrollment and dozens of building projects on the New Brunswick, Newark and Camden campuses. Though the football team struggled last year, McCormick also lists the Rutgers athletic department as one of his successes.
McCormick said he had plenty of failures. He repeatedly failed to convince Trenton lawmakers to make a significant investment in higher education, though this year’s proposed budget keeps funding for the college’s stable.
His plan to remake College Avenue, the heart of the New Brunswick campus, into a green space on par with other top colleges, was also a bust. A 2005 proposal for closing roads, creating quads and creating a signature Rutgers building was criticized as too costly and ill timed.
“The timing wasn’t great, because the money wasn’t there,” McCormick said. “That’s a regret.”…
Whether or not Rutgers gets its medical school, McCormick said he will leave the university considering his term a success.
“I didn’t grow up wanting to be president of Rutgers. But when I had the privilege of taking office I looked back and realized in some ways, my whole life had been a preparation for it,” McCormick said. “I was called home by Rutgers to be its president and I feel deeply proud of that.”
Rutgers President Will Step Down in 2012 but Stay on Campus to Teach
Richard Perry/The New York Times
Richard L. McCormick, speaking on Tuesday in New Brunswick, N.J., returned to Rutgers University in 2002 as its president.
Richard L. McCormick, a self-described “faculty brat” at Rutgers University who learned to swim at a campus pool on College Avenue in New Brunswick, N.J., and grew up to become the university president, announced on Tuesday that he would step down from that post at the end of next year to return to teaching — at Rutgers, of course — and writing.
“I used to be a scholar of American political history, and I fancy I can do that again,” he said at a news conference.
Dr. McCormick, 63, who still recalls tagging along to campus events with his mother, an administrator, and his father, a history professor and dean, taught at Rutgers for 16 years before leaving to become provost of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then president of the University of Washington in Seattle. Since returning to Rutgers as president in 2002, he has engineered a historic reorganization of the university, increased fund-raising and overseen new building projects and academic programs — all during a period of painful state budget cuts.
Before he departs the presidency, Dr. McCormick said Tuesday, he plans to push ahead on the $1 billion fund-raising campaign announced last year, to work to get a bond issue to finance construction of new academic buildings and maintenance on existing ones and to move forward on a proposal to make Robert Wood Johnson Medical School part of Rutgers.
“I’m not leaving yet, and I set forth a fairly ambitious agenda for the year ahead,” he said in an interview….READ MORE
A version of this article appeared in print on June 1, 2011, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Rutgers President Will Step Down in 2012 but Stay on Campus to Teach.