PHILIP HANLON ‘77 SELECTED AS 18TH COLLEGE PRESIDENT
By Lindsay Ellis, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, November 29, 2012
University of Michigan Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Philip Hanlon ’77 has been selected as the College’s 18th president and will assume the role on July 1, College officials announced on Thursday. Hanlon, a mathematician who has served in a variety of administrative positions at Michigan since 1986, has recognized the importance of undergraduate teaching throughout his time in Ann Arbor.
Hanlon will succeed World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in the College’s Wheelock Succession. Former College Provost Carol Folt has served as interim president since Kim's departure and will return to the provost position upon Hanlon's assumption of the presidency. The College’s Board of Trustees elected Hanlon unanimously on Tuesday, culminating the search for Kim’s successor led by Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Bill Helman ’80, Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen Mandel ’78 said.
“There’s an exciting period ahead of us,” Hanlon said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “Hopefully, it will have profound changes for the better at the College. That takes time. I hope to be at the helm for a good, long time.”
Hanlon said he intends to continue teaching at the College. At Michigan, he taught first-year calculus while he served in administrative roles, according to a College press release. Mandel introduced Hanlon, the first alumnus College president since David McLaughlin ’54 Tu’55, in an email sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents on Thursday afternoon.
Hanlon’s “incredible record” as a teacher, scholar and administrator at Michigan, a large, complex institution, stood out to committee members, Mandel said.
“He’s done incredible things as a leader of the institution,” Mandel said. “It’s really unusual that you get all three of those things in the same package."
Hanlon worked as Michigan’s chief academic officer and chief budget officer when he became provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in July 2010, according to his curriculum vitae. Deans of Michigan’s 19 schools and colleges, the institution’s vice provosts and other institutional deans and directors reported to Hanlon.
Hanlon said he has been “deeply engaged” in teaching at Michigan, but he also noted his administrative work in mitigating a $47.5-million loss in state higher education appropriation to the University of Michigan in 2011.
“I was right in the center of all of this, developing a financial model which has allowed the university to flourish despite these financial challenges,” he said. “I bring that experience to work at Dartmouth.”
To navigate the financial loss, Michigan departments had to “tighten our belts” alongside a tuition increase, Hanlon said. The Michigan Daily reported that tuition increased by 6.7 percent for in-state and 4.9 percent for out-of-state students that summer.
Hanlon served as Michigan’s vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs from July 2004 through June 2010. In this position, he worked with deans and directors on facilities, budget and financial matters, according to Hanlon’s CV.
University of Michigan Vice Provost Martha Pollack ’79, who has worked with Hanlon both in her current position and her former role as dean of Michigan’s School of Information, said Hanlon brings high ethical and academic standards to a challenging position.
“He is passionate about undergrad education, and he has this quiet but compelling way of leading that brings people together and leads them toward shared goals,” she said.
Michigan has seen declines in state approbation for almost a decade, and Hanlon worked to manage the University’s budget as soon as he stepped into the vice provost role, Pollack said.
“For eight years, he’s really been helping us develop a culture of fiscal discipline that allows us to deal with these cuts,” she said. “He’s stewarded Michigan through challenging financial times.”
Although many focus on Hanlon’s management of fiscal challenges, Pollack said Hanlon considers education’s meaning in the 21st century, which has “set a vision” for Michigan.
Pollack cites Michigan’s Third Century Initiative, announced in 2011, as an example of this consideration. The five-year, $50 million initiative, started in October 2011, funds both innovative teaching methods and research on societal problems, according to a Michigan press release.
Michigan School of Information Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason ’80, who reports directly to Hanlon, said that Hanlon acts without ego or selfishness, particularly citing Hanlon’s budget allocation across Michigan’s schools.
“Every day he’s making very hard decisions about what our priorities will be and how to move things forward,” he said. “He doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t have big blind spots. He’s thinking about what our mission is and what’s best for the institution.”
Hanlon was the “Key Client” for the North Quad Project. The project — a piece of Michigan’s Residential Life Initiative — clustered a 10-story residence hall and a seven-story academic building, the Michigan Daily reported in 2010.
As “Key Client,” Hanlon spoke for Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman in making decisions for the project, according to Hanlon’s CV.
Hanlon stressed the importance of undergraduate teaching throughout his years at the University of Michigan. He received the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, which recognizes outstanding contributions to undergraduate education, in 1992. Hanlon also served on the President’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience in 2000.
The Commission explored social and academic pieces of the undergraduate experience and issued recommendations to former Michigan President Lee Bollinger.
Hanlon’s research interests include algebraic combinatorics, discrete probability, bioinformatics and theoretical computer science, according to his CV.
Dartmouth must navigate a period of rapid change in the world of higher education while continuing to fulfill its mission statement, Hanlon said.
“The highest priority is to make sure that Dartmouth is delivering on its core mission of preparing leaders and advancing knowledge that impacts the world,” he said. “I want to make sure it’s delivering on those two missions as effectively and as powerfully as it can.”
College graduates are entering a changing workplace, technology has influenced how students work and the traditional funding model for higher education is “probably unsustainable,” Hanlon said.
“There’s lots that higher education will be grappling with, and Dartmouth will be a leader in figuring out the way forward,” he said.
Hanlon called John Kemeny, from whom he took classes, the College president he most admires. Kemeny served as College president from 1970 to 1981.
“He clearly had the same ethic I do, that the teaching mission of the university is something he wanted to be involved in,” Hanlon said.
Kemeny’s ability to lead Dartmouth through a period of intense change — including coeducation and the adoption of the D-Plan — is “poignant” to Hanlon, he said.
Hanlon said he must reacquaint himself with today’s Dartmouth by developing relationships with students, faculty, alumni and administrators. Through this understanding, Hanlon said he will better understand challenges he will face.
Michigan, a public university with 19 schools and colleges, hosts about 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Despite these differences with the College — which has four undergraduate and graduate schools and about 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students — Hanlon said that the institutions’ aspirations are similar.
“The two institutions want to train and prepare the leaders who will go out and change the world, and they want to advance knowledge, which is going to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
In July, the Presidential Search Committee released a profile that outlined a candidate’s ideal qualities. Unlike prior search profiles, this document addressed sexual assault and substance abuse at the College, emphasizing the importance of holding students and campus organizations responsible for their actions in social settings.
Hanlon said he has received “some briefing” on initiatives led by Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson.
“I know there have been a lot of smart people looking at this, and I’m hopeful we will make progress on whatever student life issues there are on campus,” he said.
"AN OBVIOUS CANDIDATE"
The search committee unanimously recommended Hanlon about a week before the Board elected him, Mandel said.
“We got our number-one choice,” Helman said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “We got the person who we felt would be the absolute best person for Dartmouth going forward. There’s no question in anybody’s mind.”
The College announced its 17-member Presidential Search Committee, composed of Trustees, professors, alumni, Dean of Libraries Jeffrey Horrell and Student Body President Suril Kantaria ’13 on May 25. Isaacson, Miller, an executive search consulting firm, assisted the committee.
Helman, with Mandel and Search Committee Vice Chair Diana Taylor ’77, held three forums last spring to learn what characteristics in a president held importance to Dartmouth students, staff and faculty.
Helman also met with Student Assembly last spring, and the search committee allowed other community members to submit thoughts on its website.
After receiving and analyzing this feedback, the committee released a profile in July that outlined the next president’s ideal qualities, expressing its desire for a leader who would put forward Dartmouth’s mission, continue strategic planning at the College, retain faculty, enhance an intellectual atmosphere for students, position the institution as a global leader, integrate the College’s undergraduate and graduate schools and effectively raise funds.
Helman said that although Hanlon had submitted his name for consideration, the committee had noticed him from the search’s beginning, when Helman researched Dartmouth alumni in academic administrative positions.
“We had our eye on him from the beginning,” Helman said. “He’s such an obvious candidate on paper, but we also wanted to use the process to make sure we touched every base.”
A small group of committee members met Hanlon and between 25 and 35 other strong candidates in September, Mandel said. After these meetings, the committee met with a narrowed pool of 10 candidates in October and November, he said.
Hanlon called the committee thorough and convincing. “They took me from being pretty interested to being totally interested by the end of the search,” Hanlon said. “I’m really excited. I’m really thrilled, I’m anxious to get started.”
Helman said he noted Hanlon’s humility, dedication to undergraduate teaching, thorough understanding of graduate schools and programs and community spirit as the search continued.
Leaving his provost position for another institution’s presidency, Hanlon follows at least four former University of Michigan Provosts — Teresa Sullivan, Nancy Cantor, Bernard Machen and Charles Vest — along this career path, The Michigan Daily reported in 2010.
After Hanlon was appointed provost, Sullivan, who now is the president of the University of Virginia, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that Hanlon becoming a university president one day would not surprise her.
Given Hanlon’s talent and the fact that there have been several recent presidential vacancies, that this appointment occurred so soon after he was named provost “isn’t all that surprising” to Sullivan, she said in an interview with The Dartmouth.
“He’s got a rare talent,” she said. “It’s the sort of talent you need in a presidential suite. I really thought it was just the case of which university it was going to be.”
Mason noted that Hanlon is the latest in Michigan administrators to depart the university for Ivy League presidencies.
Harold Tafler Shapiro served as Michigan’s president from 1980 to 1988, when he became Princeton University’s president, a post he held until 2001. Lee Bollinger held Michigan’s presidency from 1996 to 2001, and he has been president of Columbia University since 2002. Jeffrey Lehman was the dean of Michigan’s law school from 1994-2003, preceded by Bollinger, and from 2003-2005, he was the president of Cornell University.
“Michigan fortunately has a deep talent pool, so we’ll be able to recover from this, but it’s a big blow,” Mason said. “We’ll be losing a truly fabulous leader.”
AS A STUDENT
Hanlon studied mathematics at the College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1977. He earned a PhD in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1981.
At the College, he was a self-described “math nerd,” and said he primarily hung out with other math majors. Hanlon was a member of Alpha Delta fraternity.
Hanlon came to the College from Gouverneur, N.Y., a small mining town in the northern Adirondack Mountains.
“It was a place where the life of the mind was not given much priority,” he said. “When I got to Dartmouth, when I arrived there, I had a very shaky understanding of the world.”
At the College, Hanlon said he found faculty and students who challenged and nurtured him, and he found himself excited by the work they were doing.
“I had very little confidence in myself academically,” he said. “Dartmouth is the place where I grew up. It’s the place that shaped me intellectually and socially.”
To Mandel, Hanlon’s transformation as a student at the College will inspire students thinking about pursuing careers in academia.
“Here’s somebody who came to Dartmouth with no idea of what they were going to do, with very little self confidence, who left saying they wanted to think of nothing better than being an academic in a great university,” Mandel said. “And he has achieved incredible things all the way along the way, as a teacher, scholar, manager and now as a president."
Since graduation, he said he has remained close to the College through his closest friends, who have stayed connected for the past 35 years. His wife, Gail Gentes, is the sister of one of Hanlon’s fraternity brothers, Hanlon said.
Helman said that he thinks that the fact that Hanlon attended Dartmouth attracted him to the presidency.
“I think the only way we got him was because he went to Dartmouth,” Helman said. “I think that he has a love and appreciation for what Dartmouth meant for him.”
Gentes is the director of research and faculty support at Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
The couple has three children in their 20s, according to the press release.