President McCormick's Press Conference Announcing Decision to Step Down

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good afternoon. Earlier today I met with the Rutgers Board of Governors to share my decision to step down as president of Rutgers at the end of the 2011–12 academic year. My wife Joan and I reached this decision over many months, and with difficulty, because it will mean giving up the position for which so much of my life has prepared me and which I have filled with pride for nearly a decade. The board and I also reviewed, with deep satisfaction, what Rutgers has accomplished in recent years, and we shared our soaring ambitions for the future of this outstanding university.

Rutgers is my home. I grew up here, I served on the faculty for sixteen years, and, having left for a while, I came home to Rutgers as president in 2002. I love this institution. But by the end of next year I will turn 65, an age when people often make transitions. I am still young enough, however, to teach and write, about which I am passionate, and so I will return to the Rutgers faculty where I began my academic career 35 years ago. I will also be able to spend more of my days with Joan and our young daughter Katie. We will live nearby, and we will remain members of the Rutgers community for a very long time.

Over the past nine years, Rutgers has made historic accomplishments:

  • The transformation of undergraduate education in New Brunswick, which has brought profound benefits to our students including a comprehensive new curriculum, more choices, new first-year seminars with top faculty, and more opportunities for undergraduate research and honors programs.
  • Exciting initiatives in vital areas of research where we can make a difference around the world, such as nutrition, climate change and alternative energy, transportation, materials and devices, urban entrepreneurship, and childhood studies.
  • A talented student body that is larger and more diverse than at any point in Rutgers history, and whose members are competing successfully for the most prestigious national and international scholarships.
  • Major investments on all three of our campuses—residence halls, recreation and student centers, and dining halls for our students; academic buildings for the sciences, law, and engineering; a visitor center, and soon a major bookstore in New Brunswick.
  • A new vision for Livingston Campus as a center for professional and business education—and a model for higher education in the 21st century.
  • A much closer relationship with our 400,000 graduates, including a reinvigorated alumni program and the first-ever university-wide alumni association.
  • Better promotion of the university and its achievements through Rutgers Day, our Jersey Roots, Global Reach communications campaign, and much more.
  • Deeper engagement with New Jersey and especially the communities where we are located, including the Rutgers Future Scholars Program, through which hundreds of teenagers from our host cities are making important strides toward a college education.

As president in the year ahead, I will be working aggressively on three exceedingly important efforts for Rutgers and for higher education:

First, I will be fundraising for Rutgers. The campaign, Our Rutgers, Our Future, is going well, and we are more than halfway to our goal of $1 billion. I have several major fundraising trips planned and will be meeting continually with dozens of top donor prospects. This is Rutgers’ largest campaign ever, and it is a symbol of our self-reliance—our recognition that achievement of the university’s exceedingly high ambitions rests largely with us.

Second, I will be advocating for the recommendations of the report of the task force on higher education, appointed by governor Chris Christie and led by former governor Tom Kean—most especially the recommendation for bringing the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the School of Public Health into Rutgers. I will be actively involved, together with the Boards of Governors and Trustees, in reviewing every aspect of the proposed arrangements, to ensure that they are satisfactory to Rutgers. When it is completed, this will be one of the most important developments in the history of Rutgers, and equally vital for New Jersey.

Third, from my dual positions as president of the State University of New Jersey and as chair of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, I will work hard—together with many others—to place a bond issue for higher education facilities on the ballot in 2012. We have not had such a bond issue since 1988, and with record numbers of students seeking a college degree in New Jersey, the need to expand capacity and improve our facilities is evident on campuses across the state.

When I accepted the Rutgers presidency in 2002, I said that it was a dream come true. In the past nine years, while some days were dreamier than others, there have been some extraordinary and unforgettable moments: welcoming the Dalai Lama to Rutgers; having four Gates Cambridge Scholarship winners in one year; watching our ocean glider cross the Atlantic and make history; seeing the looks on the faces of that first group of eighth graders chasing their dreams through the Rutgers Future Scholars program; and of course, that November night in 2006, when the Scarlet Knights came back to beat 3rd-ranked Louisville.

I have been extraordinarily privileged to lead Rutgers, a university that has meant so much to my family and that my parents served so well. Rutgers today has its challenges, but we are also a stronger institution for the leadership of good people on our board, among our faculty and staff, within our student body, and among our alumni and friends. Because of them, we are attracting more and better students than ever. Because of them, we are more diverse and our students are winning more prestigious scholarships than ever. Because of them, many of our academic programs are ranked among the best in the nation, and we are poised to be what the Kean task force dares us to become: a great state university, one of the best in the country.

As I relinquish this podium to Board of Governors chair Ralph Izzo, I want to say that I have been incredibly fortunate to work for, and with, so many talented and dedicated members of the Rutgers boards. And I have been particularly blessed to work closely with four Board of Governors chairs who have consistently put their intellect, passion, and leadership to work for Rutgers: Gene O’Hara, Al Gamper, Bill Howard, and now Ralph. Rutgers is a better place for their dedication and stewardship, and it is now my pleasure to welcome board chair Ralph Izzo.