After nearly two decades at GW, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg likened himself to an old car. At the end of July, the University will trade him in for a new model – one from Johns Hopkins University.
“I am going to be a used university president,” Trachtenberg said in an interview with The Hatchet. On Aug. 1, Johns Hopkins University Provost Steven Knapp will become GW’s 16th president, replacing Trachtenberg, who has spent 19 years at GW’s top post.
But idle years on the lot are not in store for Trachtenberg.
“I am too young to slow down,” a 69-year-old Trachtenberg said. “Having done this for 20 years, it is interesting to do something else, once I realized there was something else.”
Trachtenberg said he is going to teach, write books, consult and sit on two foundation boards – the Bankiter Foundation and the Chiang Chen Industrial Charity Foundation.
“It is a different type of busy,” Trachtenberg said. “Not as ordered as before.”
Francine Trachtenberg, his wife, said that her husband’s retirement would not be consumed by rest and relaxation.
“It is not retirement of the 1950s,” said Francine Trachtenberg. “It is a change in routine and lifestyle.”
Trachtenberg said his first order of business after becoming president emeritus in August will be to move from Rice Hall to his new office at the School of Media and Public Affairs building.
“I have 20 years of accumulated stuff. I have to clear out all of those hippos and plaques,” said Trachtenberg of his current office. “I also have to make a schedule and reinvent myself.”
In the fall, Trachtenberg will start his new position at GW – as a professor of public service in the graduate School of Public Policy and Public Administration. Trachtenberg said he plans to design courses that will draw upon his experience in higher education.
“My primary focus is going to be developing courses that have a synergy,” Trachtenberg said. “I will try to write some stuff that will be interesting about higher education.”
Joseph Cordes, associate director of SPPPA, said Trachtenberg will probably not start teaching right away in the fall and will spend some time sitting in on classes and reading about public service.
“First, he will take a well- deserved break,” Cordes said. “Then, he will take some time to develop ideas for teaching in the department.”
The outgoing president will also be establishing a firm that will provide consultation in higher education.
“It isn’t completely developed, but I think I know something about higher education,” Trachtenberg said. “I am just working it out now.”
Trachtenberg said he is also putting the finishing touches on his fourth book – “Final Exam” – which will be available at book stores in January 2008. The book will be a reflection on higher education and his time at GW, he said.
With less than two months to go in his presidency, Trachtenberg said he is still working full time as University president and is still heavily engaged in fundraising for GW.
Trachtenberg said he recently was able to get a donation from his dentist while he was getting a check-up.
“There is action all the time,” Trachtenberg said. “I am still full time in fundraising”
Come September, Trachtenberg has agreed to take the much needed break many agree he deserves. President Trachtenberg and his wife, Francine, plan to start spending more personal time together and will take their very first honeymoon to the South of France in a few short months.
“When I was busy being dean, we never had a chance,” said Trachtenberg, who has been married for 35 years.
Francine Trachtenberg said the extra time for a honeymoon is a great benefit of her husband’s retirement.
“It will be the nicest part of this change,” said Francine Trachtenberg. “We will finally be recapturing personal time.”