By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Johns Hopkins University tapped its 14th president yesterday, naming University of Pennsylvania Provost Ronald J. Daniels to wrestle with the looming challenges of heading the prestigious research university at a time of severe economic problems facing higher education.
The Canadian-born Daniels, 49, will succeed William R. Brody, who is stepping down as president after nearly 12 years. Daniels, who will begin the job March 2, was elected from more than 300 candidates during an international search.
The selection of Daniels represents a departure from Brody, who leads the Baltimore-based school and medical center as a trained doctor with expertise in radiology.
Daniels is a legal scholar who spent a decade as the law school dean at the University of Toronto before becoming chief academic officer at Penn in 2005.
Pamela P. Flaherty, chairman of the board of trustees, which unanimously approved Daniels, and head of the presidential search committee that recommended him, said he was picked because of his excellent track record in accomplishing major initiatives at a research-intensive university with a large medical complex.
"All the people we talked to had wonderful things to say about his scholarship and leadership and his high educational standards, but they also all universally talked about what a joy it was to work with him and how much they liked him and how collegial he was," she said.
Daniels said he was thrilled at the chance to lead a school of Hopkins's reputation while recognizing that higher education is facing major challenges, including accessibility, funding, globalization and interdisciplinary research.
"In the near future, the big issues will involve the current economic climate and the extent to which so many different sources of the university's revenue stream are now being challenged," he said. "As is true for all research-intensive universities, a critical priority will be determining how you respond to this change in the economic climate and how, in a time when there is so much economic stress, you not just merely preserve but enhance your academic mission."
His first task, he said, will be "learn the soul of the institution so I can be a passionate and effective advocate."
At Penn, Daniels had responsibility for undergraduate and graduate education, research and technology, faculty affairs, global initiatives, student life, athletics, admissions, arts and culture, and libraries.
Throughout his career, he has been focused on how universities can help promote international cooperation to solve big problems. He expanded, for example, Penn's connection to the government and the University of Botswana in the effort to fight HIV/AIDS. He also developed the Penn World Scholars Program, which brings outstanding students from the developing world to attend Penn as undergraduates.
Brody lived at Nichols House on Hopkins's Homewood campus, and Daniels plans to do the same. Daniels and his wife, Joanne Rosen, a human rights lawyer, have four children: Robert, 17; Drew and Ryan, 16; and Alexandra, 14.
He earned an LLM from Yale University in 1988, a law degree from the University of Toronto in 1986 and a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto in 1982.