Johns Hopkins Provost Chosen To Lead GWU

By Martin Weil and Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Steven Knapp, a scholar and highly regarded academic administrator who is provost of Johns Hopkins University, has been named the new president of George Washington University.

Knapp, 55, will succeed Stephen J. Trachtenberg, 68, who is credited with raising the university to national stature since he assumed the presidency in 1988. He announced in April that he would step down.

"It's extremely exciting and a great opportunity," said Knapp, who will take over Aug. 1.

Both men have been described as strong leaders, but with different styles. Trachtenberg has been a colorful, charming, but sometimes abrasive figure at GWU. In contrast, Knapp, a specialist in English literature, is said to be quiet, a listener who has exerted authority largely from behind the scenes.

W. Russell Ramsey, vice chairman of GWU's board, said the presidential search committee, which he headed, was trying to "really think big" and find someone to boost the university's standing another notch into the highest academic ranks. Knapp, he said, fits that description.

In particular, he cited what he called Knapp's demonstrated ability to expand research and find funding for it, as GWU seeks to do. "He's just got all the right stuff," Ramsey said. "We're really, really excited."

Hopkins President William R. Brody praised Knapp highly.

"He is without a doubt the most able academic administrator I've ever dealt with," Brody said in an interview. "He's extremely smart, very quick. He has great judgment. He understands finance and numbers -- which is rare in academics."

He noted that while managing to remain a scholar and teacher, Knapp has proved an invaluable leader over the long term and in crises. "Steve is our go-to guy," Brody said.

As for his performance at GWU, "Watch for great things," Brody said in a statement.

Speaking rapidly and with evident enthusiasm in an interview last night, Knapp indicated his intention to advance GWU to the top level of research universities while increasing its economic base, stepping up its contributions to the nation's intellectual and political life, and working with its faculty, students and neighbors.

Citing Washington's growing concentration of cultural, intellectual and governmental resources, Knapp said he "can't imagine a more exciting place" to teach, study or do research.

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