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Chicago's Gerhard Casper named Stanford's ninth president
STANFORD -- University of Chicago Provost Gerhard Casper will be the ninth president of Stanford University, James C. Gaither, president of the Board of Trustee, announced late Tuesday, March 17.
Casper, 54, a scholar of constitutional and comparative law, will begin at Stanford Sept. 1. Before becoming Chicago's provost in 1989, he was dean of that university's law school. He has been on the Chicago faculty since 1966.
In making the announcement, Gaither said that "Gerhard Casper is a man of tremendous intellectual breadth and depth. His commitment to excellence, his love for knowledge and teaching, and his appreciation for the challenges and opportunities facing the modern university make him the perfect match for Stanford. Gerhard Casper is the right person to lead Stanford into the next century."
The Stanford search, begun last fall, reviewed 667 nominations and applications. The vote by the Board of Trustees, made in a conference call Monday night, was "unanimous and enthusiastic," reported John Lillie, search committee chair. Lillie also noted that "Casper's wisdom, his thoughtfulness and, not least of all, his sense of humor will be resources upon which we will all draw."
Casper will succeed Donald Kennedy, who has been Stanford's president for 12 years. Kennedy announced his intention to resign last summer.
Kennedy said Casper's appointment is a great "coup" for Stanford. "He is widely recognized for his scholarship and his capacity for academic leadership.
"Stanford will also quickly learn that he brings us a special kind of personal grace and a real appreciation for this community and its values. I am absolutely delighted," Kennedy said.
Casper said he decided to accept Stanford's offer because "I was very taken with the love, respect and loyalty the members of the search committee, the trustees, the alumni and staff managed to project about Stanford."
Noting that he emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1964 to join the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley, Casper joked that he shared "that institution's sense of superiority, and I always wondered what Stanford might truly be like. I was diverted to Chicago for 26 years, but I finally have come to find out what Stanford is truly like."
Casper was born Christmas Day in 1937 in Hamburg, Germany. He studied law at the universities of Freiburg and Hamburg, then earned a master's in law at Yale in 1962. He earned a doctorate from Freiburg in 1964.
The same year he came to Berkeley as an an assistant professor of political science. He joined the Chicago faculty in 1966, with appointments both in political science (1967-78) and law (1966-present).
Casper has been active in numerous professional associations, including the American Bar Foundation (board of directors, 1979-87), the American Law Institute (member, council, 1980-present), the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (board of directors, 1990-present), the Council on Foreign Relations, and the National Merit Scholarship Corp. (director, 1989-present).
His wife, Dr. Regina Claire Hanna Casper, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Chicago, studied medicine at the Free University of Berlin, the University of Geneva, and the Albert Ludwig University. She is author or co-author of more than 90 publications.
The Caspers have one daughter, Hanna, who is a second year law student.
Asked about his goals as Stanford president, Casper emphasized his interest in improving undergraduate education and improving university relationships with the federal government. He stressed that he thinks university presidents should not think of the job as one of administration. "I think the most important aspect of a university presidency is that the president remain a faculty member in relation to the students and in relation to other faculty members and to the staff," he said.
"That may not mean I will be able to teach, because I've learned the hard way when I was provost that the kind of schedules such characters as provosts and presidents have to keep make it almost impossible to meet a class four times a week regularly. It's not so much meeting the class but preparing for it."
Noting criticism of universities over the rising cost of higher education, Casper said that "one of the most important things we have to sort out is the attention we pay to undergraduate teaching," including both the quality of teaching per se and the curriculum, he said. "These are all matters that, as tuition costs have gone up and as universities have come under a lot of criticism, deserve a lot of re- examination. I do think on the whole universities such as Stanford and Chicago do a pretty good job of teaching, but there's always a tremendous amount of room for improvement, and I think we should all get together and try to do an even better job."
Casper said he hoped Stanford would not have to reconsider its commitment to need-blind admissions but he would not rule out the possibility. Need-blind admissions have been "immensely important in democratizing American education," he said. "I think it is a very dangerous thing to abandon." On the other hand, he said, "the expenses of major research universities and the best colleges have continued to grow faster than their revenues and that is a problem that will not go away from one day to another."
Asked about his attitude toward multiculturalism and an ethnically diverse university, Casper noted his "funny accent" and said that, "I myself have lived a multicultural existence for many years now, and while we use easy generalizations and nowadays talk about Euro Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans, these very general categories have a lot of differences and special problems."
As an immigrant, he said, "I can attest to the fact that multicultural experience has its challenges and I understand those challenges, but these are not either/or proposition. "Universities will have to entertain what they are most about; that is teaching and research, and then they have to be a lot of other things as well."
He said he regards his most important goal as to "maintaining the quality" of U.S. higher education, "and I say that with particular conviction because I am in the United States only because I was seduced by the tremendous quality."
Stanford law Prof. Gerlad Gunther said Casper is "extraordinarily sensitive to human beings of various backgrounds."
Casper is a close friend of Gunther and often stays at the Gunther home when he visits the Bay Area. They first met in the mid- 1960s.
Gunther said he has "immense respect" for Casper, and that university trustees had made a "superb choice" for president. Besides being an outstanding constitutional scholar, Casper is a man of unusually broad interests, including art and literature, Gunther said.
"He is by no means a narrow, technical lawyer," Gunther said. "He's the closest thing to a Renaissance man you have in legal scholars."
Gunther said he finds Casper's eloquence, directness and power very striking.
And he praised Casper as an energetic man of "really extraordinary integrity. He has the capacity to be articulate and express values in ways few administrators can. He is not afraid to speak out. He's not someone who will shift in the wind and try to be everything to everybody."
1891-1913: David Starr Jordan, biologist
1913-1915: John Casper Branner, geologist
1916-1943: Ray Lyman Wilbur, medical doctor
1943-1948: Donald B. Tresidder, medical doctor
1949-1968: J.E. Wallace Sterling, historian
1968-1970: Kenneth S. Pitzer, chemist
1970-1980: Richard W. Lyman, historian
1980-1992: Donald Kennedy, biologist
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