Chancellor Rebecca Blank is leaving the University of Wisconsin-Madison to become the first female president of Northwestern University, the suburban Chicago school announced Monday.
Blank will succeed Morton Schapiro as its 17th president next summer, Northwestern said in a news release.
Blank, an internationally known economist who served as deputy secretary and acting commerce secretary during the Obama administration, has been chancellor at Wisconsin since 2013. She also has served as dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
In the release, Northwestern credited her with elevating the world class faculty at UW-Madison and “placing the university on firm financial footing through a combination of private fundraising and innovative strategies.” In its own release, UW-Wisconsin said the school’s six-year and four-year graduation rates are at their highest ever, and the “graduation gap for undergraduates between white students and historically underrepresented students has been cut nearly in half over the last 10 years.”
Coming to Northwestern is a homecoming of sorts for Blank, who was on the faculty at the school in Evanston, Illinois, from 1989 until 1999, serving as director of its Joint Center for Poverty Research.
“I served on the Northwestern faculty and was married in Chicago,” she said in a statement. “My daughter was born at Evanston Hospital and returned 18 years later to attend Northwestern as a student.”
Blank also had warm words for the school and the city she’s leaving, calling her time there an “honor and a privilege.”
“It was always my goal to leave this university stronger than when I came and I believe that together we have achieved that,” she said.
Blank won praise from Wisconsin too.
“The University of Wisconsin is one of the finest universities in the world, and Chancellor Blank’s tenacious advocacy and strong leadership have helped build on that legacy during her tenure,” interim UW System President Tommy Thompson said in a statement.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is searching for a new chancellor as well as a new UW System president.