In an early-morning e-mail to colleagues Tuesday, Provost Andrew Hamilton said he has been nominated to lead the University of Oxford as its vice-chancellor beginning in October 2009.
Hamilton’s nomination to the senior-most administrative role at the oldest university in the English-speaking world — pending approval by Oxford’s Congregation, or Parliament of Dons — opens a power vacuum in the upper echelons of Yale’s administration that University officials say is expected to be filled by next fall. Hamilton, who will remain at Yale until then, is set to take over from John Hood at the end of Hood’s five-year term as the current Oxford vice-chancellor.
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“I am enormously honored and excited at the prospect of helping steward one of the great centers of scholarship in the world,” he said in the e-mail. “But, of course, with this comes the sadness of leaving Yale. I think many of you know how much I love this place. It has given me a home for eleven years, great colleagues to stimulate my research, wonderful graduate and undergraduate students to teach, and an education of my own in the ways of university administration from all of you.”
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy declined to comment on the search for Hamilton’s replacement. Deputy Provost Chip Long and J. Lloyd Suttle, the deputy provost for graduate and undergraduate programs, could not be immediately reached for comment.
University President Richard Levin said in a statement that Hamilton would be missed at Yale, where he led the effort to revamp the tenure process and expand the sciences.
“Andy Hamilton has led major initiatives to strengthen Yale in science, engineering, and medicine while at the same time enthusiastically supporting investments in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts,” Levin said. “He is a first-rate scholar, who is respected by his faculty colleagues as a wise academic leader.”
Hamilton, the Benjamin Silliman Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, has been a member of Yale’s faculty since 1997. In that time, he served as chair of the Chemistry Department and deputy provost for science and technology, helping to create the Center for Genomics and Proteomics and the Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering.
More recently, he guided the planning of research programs and facilities on Yale’s developing West Campus and recruited Kyle Vanderlick as Dean of Engineering, with whom he worked to resurrect the School of Engineering.
In other areas, he helped to form the interdisciplinary Humanities Program and to bolster the undergraduate curriculum by revamping requirements in science, quantitative reasoning, humanities and arts.
Oxford Chancellor Lord Patten of Barnes, who fills a largely ceremonial role at the university and is appointed for life, said in a statement that Hamilton is an “exceptional choice” to “guide us into the second decade of the twenty-first century.”
As vice-chancellor, Hamilton will provide Oxford with strategic direction and leadership and will represent the university locally and around the world. His duties will include chairing key university bodies and developing the institution’s financial base through fundraising.
And Hamilton is no stranger to America’s friend across the pond. A native of Guildford, Surrey, he read chemistry at the University of Exeter and, after qualifying for a master’s degree at the University of British Columbia, earned his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
Hamilton, whose research focused on the interface of organic and biological chemistry, has also taught chemistry at Princeton University and the University of Pittsburgh. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Hamilton is far from the first Yale provost to relinquish his venerable New Haven office for a more leading role at a prestigious university.
His predecessor, Susan Hockfield, was named president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004; she became the first woman to hold that post. Alison Richard, who Hockfield replaced, left the office in 2003 to become vice-chancellor at Cambridge. Judith Rodin, who led the Provost’s Office from 1992 to 1994, served as president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1994 until 2004.
The Oxford appointment squashes any real possibility that Hamilton will ascend to the Yale presidency when Levin retires, as Kingman Brewster replaced Whitney Griswold as president beginning in 1964 when Griswold suddenly passed away.
The future of Yale’s next provost, however, is anyone’s call.