Posted Monday, Dec. 4, 5:15 p.m.
GW’s Board of Trustees unanimously confirmed Steven Knapp, a senior administrator at Johns Hopkins University, as the successor to University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.
The trustees – who comprise the highest-governing body at GW – held a teleconference Friday to approve the top choice of the Presidential Search Committee, Trachtenberg said Monday afternoon. Knapp, a senior vice president of Academic Affairs and provost of Johns Hopkins, will be GW’s 16th president.
“He’ll do terrific,” Trachtenberg said. “He’s been a terrific provost – everyone’s said that – and an excellent professor before that.”
“I’m very excited, very pleased… I’m honored by his decision to come. I think his appointment reflects well on my own term in office,” he added.
Knapp declined to comment, saying that “it would not be appropriate” because the University wanted the search process to be strictly confidential.
GW’s next president has served in his current position at the school in Baltimore, Md., for the past 10 years, according to his biography on the university’s Web site. He was previously the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences for two years.
Knapp joined Johns Hopkins after 16 years on the faculty of the University of California-Berkeley, according to the biography. He was a leader in the English department and specialized in 18th and 19th century English literature.
Charles Manatt, chair of the Board of Trustees, said the presidential search process went very smoothly.
“This is the best presidential search that has been carried out in a very long time by any University,” said Manatt, who did not confirm Knapp’s selection, Monday afternoon. “That’s credited to a fine committee and chairman and the record set by the university president. It all fit together very well.”
Trachtenberg announced his retirement last spring, to be effective July 2007, at which point he will have served 19 years as the University’s chief executive. His contract is set to expire then and, as the GW’s third longest-serving president, he thought his tenure should come to an end.
“I just felt like it was time,” Trachtenberg told The Hatchet the day he announced his retirement.
The 68-year-old New Yorker has reminisced fondly about his time at GW.
“For me, this is a bittersweet moment – the passing of the professional torch from generation to generation and the marking of a milestone, moving from one career path to another,” he wrote in a statement sent to the GW community on April 4. “For all my years as a President, I have worked tirelessly 24/7, 365 days a year on behalf of an institution I greatly admire and respect. Serving as president of the George Washington University is both an honor and a labor of love.”
The presidential search process began soon after Trachtenberg’s announcement in April. The Board of Trustees – the highest-governing body at the University – selected a 14-person President Search Committee to choose the new president. The committee consists of nine trustees, three professors, the Alumni Association president and the Student Association president.
The Board of Trustees originally charged the search committee with submitting the top three candidates by January 2007.
A series of “Visions” forums at GW and outside D.C. solicited input on the presidential search from the many constituencies affected by a new leader. Faculty, students, staff, alumni and Foggy Bottom residents weighed in at these town-hall-style meetings conducted by the Board of Trustees Task Force on Advancement. In addition to seeking opinion on the next president, the forums aimed to develop a 10 and 20-year plan for the University.
Jeanette Michael, a member of the Board of Trustees and a task force member, said the vision statement will act as a guide for the new president.
“When the new president is selected, that president will have a clear idea of where we would like the University to go,” she said in September.
Trachtenberg said Knapp will have several weighty issues and challenges before him, including the adjunct faculty union in federal court and the dean search at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.
“(That) explains why I found myself skipping down the street this morning,” he added.
-Brandon Butler contributed to this report.