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Stanford names Van Etten new chief financial officer
STANFORD -- Peter W. Van Etten was named the new chief financial officer of Stanford University at the meeting of the Board of Trustees on Friday, June 14.
Van Etten, 44, has been deputy chancellor for management and finance at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., since 1989. He was introduced to the Stanford Board of Trustees Friday and is to join the university July 8.
His previous experience includes banking and serving as chief financial officer of two major teaching hospitals in Boston, University Hospital, from 1976 to 1980, and the New England Medical Center Hospital, from 1981-1989. At the latter, he also founded and was chief executive officer of its for-profit subsidiary Transition Systems Inc., which develops and sells management control software and consulting services to 150 medical organizations worldwide.
"Peter was our number one choice, and we are absolutely delighted to have him join Stanford," President Donald Kennedy said. "His experience and innovation in financial controls and management at complex, highly regulated, non-profit institutions are ideal for meeting the challenges of universities in the 1990s.
"He superbly completes our new financial team, and will play a leading role in the renovation of our financial systems and resolution of the indirect cost issue."
Van Etten succeeds William F. Massy, whose resignation becomes effective Saturday, June 15. Van Etten will join fellow new financial officers Laurance R. Hoagland Jr., who begins July 1 as chief executive officer of the Stanford Management Co., and Reed Brimhall, who began as director of internal audit April 22.
As part of a financial reorganization announced in October, Stanford made the chief financial officer responsible for financial policy and systems, control and audit functions and risk management. In that position, Van Etten also will serve as liaison between the university and the independent Stanford Management Co., which is taking over functions of the Treasurer's and Real Estate offices in managing university assets.
Among the major issues Van Etten will face are budget shortfalls of an estimated $95 million over the next two years, and cuts in reimbursement for the indirect costs of federally sponsored research. The Office of Naval Research in May cut Stanford's indirect cost recovery rate from 70 percent to 55.5 percent, with each percentage point equal to about $1.25 million to the university.
Van Etten said, however, that he was not daunted.
"I'm more intrigued," he said. "The budget problems are what makes it interesting. I like a challenge. It's great to go in and interview for a job and hear them say, 'Boy, do we need you."
On both the issues of budget constraints and federal regulation, Van Etten said his medical experience would serve him well.
"Universities are in a stage similar to that of hospitals 10 years ago," he said. "After periods of large growth, revenues are constrained. It is important to see that resources are used more wisely, and that productivity and cost-effectiveness are increased.
"It calls for significant changes in the way you operate the institution. It can be done while still maintaining the quality of the institution. The ways to do it will be different at Stanford than at a hospital, but that is the challenge.
"One of the things that attracted me to Stanford is that the university, and Don Kennedy and [Provost] Jim Rosse in particular, identified constraints on revenue and the need to use resources more effectively long before others, and long before indirect costs became an issue."
Associates have been quoted as saying Van Etten's strengths include negotiating skills and making financial data understandable and useful - pertinent qualifications as Stanford deals with the federal government on indirect costs and reforms its financial systems.
"Stanford needs information in different forms to help managers make good decisions - at the department level, the dean's level and the central administration level," Van Etten said.
"The question is how to accomplish the needs of regulatory reporting to the government, financial reporting to the board and management reporting to decision-makers. The same data has to be used for all these purposes, but different information systems support each one."
Van Etten has a bachelor's degree in music and international relations from Columbia University and a master's of business administration from Harvard. He has been an adjunct assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health since 1979, teaching and publishing on health-care finance and management. He also has been a lecturer at Harvard and Yale.
He is chairman of the Massachusetts Hospital Association AIDS Task Force, a director of Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy Inc. and a current or past member of numerous health-related boards and committees.
Van Etten has taken monthlong mountain-climbing trips to the Himalayas and is an aficionado of the symphony and opera. His wife, Peetie, is an exhibited sculptor. They have three teenaged daughters.
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