Casper to step down as university president Aug. 31, 2000
Stanford University President Gerhard Casper has announced his decision to step down on Aug. 31, 2000, capping a tenure in which he focused on the university's academic mission, strengthened programs to support the faculty, and led a successful effort to broaden the university's fundraising base.
Since his arrival in 1992, Casper has substantially transformed the undergraduate curriculum, increased support for graduate students, and overseen an ambitious program of preservation, restoration and expansion of campus buildings.
Casper, 61, announced his decision at a Sept. 14 meeting of department chairs. He will take a sabbatical and then return to teach at Stanford. A scholar of constitutional law, Casper is Stanford's ninth president.
"The time has come for me to make this my last year as president of Stanford," he said. "I hope that, even among those who disagree with some, most, or all of what I have pursued, only a few doubt that I have worked for all of Stanford with complete dedication at all times.
"The true university, however, as I have repeated over and over again, is a joint effort of a wide range of participants. It is the faculty, deans, chairs, students, trustees, the senior officers, the staff, the alumni, parents and local, national and worldwide friends whose active engagement make Stanford a continuously renewed intellectual and moral effort."
A search committee will be appointed by the Board of Trustees to choose Casper's successor.
Robert Bass, chair of the Board of Trustees, said Stanford has been "privileged to have the best management team in higher education."
"Gerhard embodies the characteristics of a good leader: he seeks out others' views, is a good listener, is very thoughtful, has excellent judgment and is not afraid to make decisions," Bass said.
Provost John Hennessy noted Casper's vision and intellectual power as an educational leader.
"Gerhard Casper has shown that a university president can provide outstanding, dedicated leadership while maintaining the intellectual vitality that is at the center of university life," said Hennessy. "I particularly admire his active engagement with the academic programs of the university as well as his significant interaction with individual faculty and students."
Trustee Peter Bing called the selection of a new president the most important decision a board of trustees makes .
"Presidential succession is never easy," Bing said. "But Stanford has always been lucky in getting the right person for that point in its history. Thanks to the remarkable job that Gerhard has done, Stanford is at its zenith by virtually any criterion. We owe him a great debt of gratitude for bringing us to that point, and for making the circumstances for his succession as propitious as possible. And we're so pleased he will continue his professional career in the Stanford family."
Even before he arrived on campus, Casper had named a top priority: the undergraduate curriculum. He quickly appointed a Commission on Undergraduate Education that in 1994 completed the first comprehensive examination of undergraduate study at Stanford in 25 years.
"Students should be challenged and their minds stretched from their first year onward," Casper said at the time. "The first year sets the tone."
Working with faculty, Casper has launched initiatives that have led to a new approach to the first two years of college. A program called Stanford Introductory Studies provides small-group learning experiences for freshmen and sophomores that encourage mentoring relationships between students and faculty. The success of that program has led to a two-year residential Freshman/Sophomore College for 180 students that will open its doors in a pilot program this fall.
Casper also emphasized recruitment of top undergraduates through the President's Scholars Program, which provides them with research grants and expanded faculty contacts. To further assist undergraduates, he encouraged restraint on tuition increases. He also initiated improved financial aid policies, one of which, for example, eased the burden on middle-income families.
In support of graduate education, Casper in 1996 launched a campaign to raise a $200 million endowment for the Stanford Graduate Fellowship Program, which provides unrestricted support for up to 300 graduate students, in the natural sciences, the quantitative social sciences and engineering. The funds give the students "full freedom to pursue their work at Stanford without worrying about the vagaries of sponsored research or other traditional sources of support," Casper said in initiating the program. "Students will be freer to determine their own course of research rather than having to select a project based on available funding."
Another graduate-level initiative, the Asia-Pacific Scholars Program, brings graduate students from the Asia-Pacific region for study in all disciplines and joint seminars. Scholars participate in a year-long interdisciplinary seminar that examines the changing political and economic relationships in the region.
Recruitment and retention of exceptionally talented faculty members also has been a continuing priority for Casper, who holds an appointment as professor of law. He established the Research Grants for Junior Faculty program in 1998 to provide up to $20,000 in unrestricted research grants to faculty who teach in the three schools that offer undergraduate degrees: Earth Sciences, Engineering and Humanities and Sciences.
To bolster the humanities, Casper obtained support for four endowed professorships. In addition, his Presidential Lectures and Symposia in the Humanities and Arts series has brought some of the world's most distinguished scholars, artists and critics to campus for lectures, panel discussions and interactions with faculty and students. The program explores new roles and relationships for the humanities and arts in the academic community in the 21st century.
The Casper-appointed Commission on Technology in Teaching and Learning, along with the new Stanford Learning Lab and the Wallenberg Global Learning Center, have focused attention of the application of technology to higher education. In 1994 the university inaugurated the Frederick E. Terman Fellows program to help young faculty scientists establish their own laboratories and recruit graduate students. The fellowships provide each recipient with up to $100,000 in unrestricted funds annually for three years.
Casper's academic legacy also will continue through a series of major appointments. Within the last 18 months he has named a new provost and new deans for the schools of law, business, engineering and humanities and sciences.
In his own scholarship, Casper has written and taught primarily in the fields of constitutional law, constitutional history, comparative law and jurisprudence. His most recent book, Separating Power: Essays of the Founding Period, was published in 1997 by Harvard University Press. From 1977 to 1991, he was an editor of "The Supreme Court Review."
As president, Casper has maintained his ties to the classroom within his time constraints, teaching an undergraduate course in political science and a course on "Constitutionalism" in the Sophomore College program.
Casper will draw on this enthusiasm for working with undergraduates when he returns to Stanford after his sabbatical.
"Given the emphasis I have placed on the creation of Stanford Introductory Studies, I shall, in the years remaining, devote most of my efforts to our undergraduates," Casper said.
Casper also participated in the less formal side of undergraduate life, donning a T-shirt and cheering with the 6th Man Club at Stanford basketball games, reading bedtime stories at undergraduate residence halls, and performing every year in the farcical student production known as "Gaieties."
Outside the classroom
When Casper arrived, Stanford was in the midst of its recovery from the 1989 earthquake, and the new president took a strong interest in preservation and restoration of historic buildings. During his presidency, Language Corner and Geology Corner, two of the oldest buildings on campus, were restored and seismically reinforced; the severely damaged museum has been reopened and expanded; and the reconstructed west wing of Green Library offers innovative information services.
For new buildings, Casper instituted architectural competitions that have attracted some of the world's most noted architects, including Sir Norman Foster, James Ingo Freed, Ricardo Legoretta, Antoine Predock and James Stewart Polshek. Recent additions to the campus include the Science and Engineering Quad and graduate student residences. The university currently is building a Center for Clinical Sciences Research Center and a new alumni center.
The alumni facility reflects Casper's strong interest in strengthening ties with Stanford's graduates. Under his administration the formerly independent Stanford Alumni Association has been integrated into the university.
Donations to the university also have increased under Casper's leadership. In the last five years the university has raised more than $300 million annually, and in 1998-99 reached an all-time high of $319.6 million.
Casper placed particular emphasis on increasing individual contributions, challenging the senior class and alumni to increase their support of the university. This past year, 76 percent of seniors made contributions, an all-time high. In 1993, only 45 percent had contributed. Alumni participation rose to 34.8 percent in 1997-98, up from 25.7 percent in 1992.
Casper also inaugurated The Stanford Fund, which specifically supports undergraduate education. Contributions reached $6.86 million in 1997-98. His President's Fund, which provides support for initiatives selected by the president, raised $3.61 million in 1997-98.
Along with former Provost Condoleezza Rice, Casper revamped the university's budget process, reducing costs and introducing revenue-constrained budgeting. The president and provost also introduced a number of administrative initiatives, including extension of benefits to domestic partners of gay employees.
Rice said her six years of working side by side with Casper were among "the most gratifying and interesting" of her life.
"Gerhard provided leadership for Stanford through some very difficult, challenging times," she said. "I think what made him such an exceptional leader is that he was able to transform a strong sense of intellectual and moral values into a working vision for Stanford at the end of the century. He is an extraordinary person and Stanford is a much better place because of the contributions he has made."
Casper did not shy away from difficult issues, both at Stanford and in the national arena. His tenure included settlement of the indirect costs dispute with the federal government; the UCSF Stanford hospital merger; approval of the Sand Hill Road extension and a strong presidential endorsement of affirmative action. He also engaged in such issues as free speech on campus, college rankings and the role of athletics in higher education.
Trustee Pamela Rymer, United States Circuit Judge for the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, praised Casper's achievements and called him the "pre-eminent American university president."
"He has been the spokesperson for the future of higher education in America," she said. "And he has done it all with an unimpeachable integrity, intellect, insight and vision."
20 years of academic leadership
Casper was born in Hamburg, Germany. He holds a law degree from the University of Hamburg, a master of laws from Yale Law School and a doctorate from the University of Freiburg.
Prior to his arrival at Stanford, Casper was provost at the University of Chicago from 1989 to 1992, and dean of the Law School from 1979 to 1987. He came to the Law School faculty at Chicago in 1966, after spending two years as an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.
In announcing his decision to step down, Casper noted that this will be his 20th year of serving higher education in major leadership roles. In his administrative positions, he said, "I have never ceased to consider myself as from the faculty and of the faculty." Now it is time, he said, for "a season of refreshment and renewal."
But for the coming year, he added, "I assure everyone that 'lame duck' is not a role that I have played in the past or that I have any inclination to play in the future."
In addition to his regular duties, he said, he will focus on obtaining approval for Stanford's pending General Use Permit and will devote time to Stanford's relationship with UCSF "in the expectation that shortly we will determine our future course." Casper said he also will work toward "placing the Center for Bioengineering, Biomedicine and Biosciences on the Stanford map." And he will lay the groundwork for a campaign for undergraduate education at Stanford.
"There is much difficult work to do in the year ahead," he said. "I am looking forward to it. As I have said, jointly we have done and will continue to do the work of Stanford."