EVANSTON, IL — The Northwestern University board picked the president of the University of Oregon as the next president of the Evanston-based private school.
Michael Schill is set to start work in Evanston this fall after spending the past seven years at the helm of the Eugene-based public school, Northwestern representatives announced Thursday.
The move would mark a return to the Chicago area for Schill, who was a professor and dean of University of Chicago law school for more than five years starting in 2010.
“I am thrilled, honored and humbled to join Northwestern, one of the world’s most prominent universities,” Schill said in a statement. “Northwestern has a long tradition of educating the brightest minds and pushing the boundaries of research and innovation.”
Last month, the previous president-elect picked by NU trustees — former acting Commerce Secretary University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank — announced she would not be succeeding Northwestern President Morty Schapiro due to a recent diagnosis with an aggressive form of cancer.
“I cannot wait to arrive in Evanston so that I may build upon the tremendous accomplishments of my esteemed predecessors Henry Bienen and Morty Schapiro. They each, in different ways, contributed immeasurably to elevating Northwestern to a Top 10 university — and one of the most respected universities on the globe,” Schill said in a message to colleagues.
“I also want to acknowledge my good friend, Rebecca Blank, who was set to become Northwestern’s next president before her medical diagnosis. I know how deeply she wanted to join you, and I hope to honor her as I assume the presidency,” Schill said.
“At Oregon, I worked hard with our students, faculty and staff to make the university a more inclusive community where all could flourish,” he added. “I look forward to engaging with the entire Northwestern community to enhance diversity in all of its forms and to foster a sense of belonging and respect.”
A recognized expert in property law, real estate, land use, low-income housing and housing discrimination, Schill is the author or co-author of three books and more than 40 scholarly articles.
“Northwestern is strong in so many areas – the arts and humanities, the physical and medical sciences, the professions, on the athletic fields and in the classrooms,” he said. “Northwestern is blessed with a University community whose deep commitment to human potential is awe-inspiring. I believe that by working together, we can all make a difference, and I am looking forward to joining you for the next great chapter in our university’s history .”
Peter Barris, who takes over the board chair next month and led its presidential search committee, said in a statement that Schill was “ambitious and eager” to lead Northwestern into the future.
“The selection of President-elect Schill reflects the values and input of our community and institution and was informed by his deep commitment to research and academic rigor, his focus on student access and success, his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and demonstrated administrative leadership,” Barris said.
According to university officials, the 34-member search committee contained trustees, faculty, staff, students and “alumni leaders.” Undergraduate, graduate and professional students were included on the committee, as were faculty across various schools at the university.
Jide Nzelibe, a faculty representative on the committee and Northwestern law professor, said Schill is known for being dedicated and passionate about everything he does.
“Schill completely immerses himself in his environment, prioritizing faculty and academic excellence, as well as student quality and accessibility across all backgrounds,” Nzelibe said. “He is a president who will go above and beyond what is expected.”
As University of Oregon president, Schill helped launch an initiative to boost college graduation rates and increase access to higher education rates, which increased graduation rates by 10 percentage points, according to university representatives.
He prioritized diversity and inclusion, building a new Black Cultural Center, hosting an African American Speakers series and pushing for the hiring more non-white faculty members and the establishment of academic minors in Black Studies, LatinX Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies, according to the announcement of his hiring.
“I am committed to diversity,” Schill said. “The true potential of a place like Northwestern cannot be fulfilled without bringing people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, abilities and identities together as well as students, staff and faculty members who span the spectrum of ideological and political viewpoints.”
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