Penn's provost to lead Hopkins

Daniels' selection is expected today

sun exclusive

November 11, 2008|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,

The Johns Hopkins University is expected to announce today that it has selected as its new president Ronald J. Daniels, a Canadian-educated lawyer who is the provost of the University of Pennsylvania, sources have told The Baltimore Sun.

Daniels, 49, is something of an unorthodox choice to lead the Hopkins medical institution and university. He has spent the bulk of his professional career in Canada as a professor and dean of law. Hopkins does not have a law school. And unlike Dr. William R. Brody, the departing president at Hopkins, Daniels does not have a medical background.

But he is a prodigious fundraiser, consensus-builder and creative thinker, according to friends and colleagues. As dean of the University of Toronto law school, Daniels increased its endowment from $1 million to $57 million. As provost at Penn for the past three years, he has focused on faculty retention and recruitment, and on increasing support for students.

Daniels declined to comment yesterday. Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea also declined to comment. The university has scheduled an announcement for this afternoon.

Several Hopkins trustees said a board meeting is scheduled for today. Hopkins presidents are elected by the full board of trustees. The university formed a selection committee in the spring that has conducted a nationwide search for a new president.

A spokeswoman for the University of Pennsylvania said yesterday that Penn President Amy Gutmann had prepared a statement on Daniels' appointment at Hopkins but would not release it until today.

Daniels, who is a trustee at Hopkins, has written or edited at least four books on topics ranging from Hurricane Katrina to the welfare state. He has four children, all under the age of 18, and his wife is a human-rights lawyer. It is not known when he will start at Hopkins. Brody is stepping down Dec. 31.

"I think you can expect a lot of great things," said Frank Iacobucci, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and a former dean of the Toronto law school. He called Daniels "a proven academic leader" who is industrious and hard-working and "has a rare bundle of leadership talents."

William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said Daniels "appears to be an excellent choice" and has a very good reputation in academia. He said Daniels' lack of medical background would not be a hindrance. Former presidents of Hopkins have included a geographer, a chemist, a physicist and other scientists.

"I think that at the presidential level it really is leadership qualities that matter and not disciplinary expertise," Kirwan said. "He has obviously demonstrated that he knows how to lead a high-quality academic enterprise."

One friend and former colleague described Daniels as "a serious public intellectual" with a "pretty big social conscience" who frequently wrote opinion pieces for Canadian newspapers. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, he convened conferences on the legal and policy issues surrounding anti-terrorism legislation - well before others thought of such issues, said Ed Morgan, a law professor at the University of Toronto, where Daniels was dean from 1995 to 2005.

"He's not a person who puts an institution on autopilot. He's a person with a lot of initiatives," said Morgan, who went to law school with Daniels. "It's fair to say that Ron is the most energetic and dynamic dean a law school could imagine and will no doubt bring that same talent and skills to the top administration of a university."

Daniels would replace Brody, Hopkins' 13th president, who took office in 1996. Brody has been a relentless fundraiser. His retirement from Hopkins coincides with the end of an eight-year, $3.2 billion capital campaign. Brody will become the president of Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., next year.

Daniels has a rare talent for raising money, said Morgan, noting that at Toronto, Daniels carefully studied American fundraising techniques and put them into practice, such as creating glossy magazines and embarking on efforts to get alumni involved in the school.

Karen H. Rothenberg, dean of the University of Maryland's law school, said Daniels' appointment bodes well for continued partnership between the two Baltimore campuses. "The law school welcomes somebody with his academic stature into our community," Rothenberg said. "To have the president of Johns Hopkins with that background, I think, provides increasing opportunities for enriching the academic environment."

Rothenberg said the appointment of a legal scholar as president of a university without a law school is "unusual" but not without precedent, noting that the current presidents of Rice University in Texas and the University of Rochester in New York were once law school deans.

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