Editorial: Levin steps down after 20 years of honorable service
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 22:09
After 20 years, Yale President Richard Levin announced last week that he will step down at the conclusion of this academic year. While we here at UConn and the Daily Campus do not claim to be experts on Yale or on Levin specifically, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on his tenure. If you ask most people in the state – or even in the country, for that matter – to name the first two Connecticut colleges that come to mind, Yale and UConn will almost certainly be the answers. Levin’s leadership in many ways provides a model for the UConn presidency, especially with our current occupant Susan Herbst so relatively new to her position in only her second year.
For one thing, according to the Yale Daily News student newspaper, the university’s endowment grew from $1.2 billion to over $19 billion under Levin. Of course, UConn can hardly hope to match such numbers – after all, Yale has the second-highest endowment in the country after Harvard. But Levin, who Commentary Magazine this week called “a master fundraiser,” provides an example of what to do and how to do it. Despite the difficult economy of the last two years, Yale’s endowment from 2010 to 2011 increased over 16 percent.
Levin’s two-decade term allowed him to see the job through, developing and executing long-term plans and cultivating critical relationships. The Associated Press reports that he has served longer than any other current president of the Ivy League or the 61-school Association of American Universities. UConn, by contrast, has gone through four presidents during the time Yale has had one. As a result, this constant turnover has at times made it more difficult for consistent leadership — for example, it likely may have proven beneficial if only one or two presidents were leading during the 20-year UConn 2000 construction project scheduled to finish in 2015. Provided the president was doing a good job, of course.
Moreover, while there were certainly some clashes and disagreements – as are inevitably bound to occur – Yale faculty, students and staff generally seemed to like Levin. UConn has not always been so lucky. Michael Hogan’s 2010 departure was largely remembered for coming so abruptly that he did not allow the university enough time to choose a successor in time for the next school year. Not to mention that after taking the presidency of University of Illinois, Hogan was essentially forced out after two years following a faculty petition for his dismissal. The Daily Campus editorial board in 2005 even called for the resignation of then-president Philip Austin. Fortunately, Herbst thus far seems to be creating a much more positive impression in this regard.
Yale has been lucky to have somebody like Richard Levin as president. We wish him luck, from one dog (a Husky) to another (a Bulldog).