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November 12, 2009

Maher to step down as provost

James V. Maher, provost and senior vice chancellor since July 1994, this week announced his intention to leave that post and return to the Department of Physics and Astronomy faculty.

Several of Pitt’s academic administrators reacted to the announcement with surprise and praise for Maher’s leadership and accomplishments as provost.jmaher

Alan Lesgold, dean of the School of Education, commented, “The team of Jim Maher and Mark Nordenberg has transformed this University, leading an institution with great potential to become one of the world’s finest universities. Jim has focused our resources strongly on quality improvement at every level, from undergraduate instruction to research. He has done this while simultaneously creating a climate of integrity and caring that has been a real joy to work in. And he has done it with prudence, assuring that we will be able to sustain the improvements that have been made. Working with Jim is a great privilege that I have been enjoying immensely.”

“I was taken completely by surprise by the announcement of Provost Maher’s intended resignation from his administrative role,” said Jerome Rosenberg, Pitt’s research integrity officer and an employee for 56 years. “He has filled this job so excellently that I assumed that he would go on indefinitely. He has been an imaginative academic leader who has done much to consolidate our traditional academic values while moving the University to embrace the best of new ideas and new technologies. He has mobilized support and maintained the loyalty of the many constituencies served by the University.”

Rush Miller, director of the University Library System, said, “My view is that Jim Maher is one of the best provosts in higher education and he has had a profound impact on this University.His support for libraries is a key reason for the tremendous progress made in the ULS during his [tenure] as provost.”

Jacqueline  Dunbar-Jacob, dean of the School of Nursing, said, “The provost has done an incredible job of transforming the academic environment during the years of his service. It has been a pleasure to work with him.”

Pitt-Bradford President Livingston Alexander said, “Jim’s impact throughout the University, including the five campuses of the system, has been enormous. We’ve certainly benefited from his leadership here at Pitt-Bradford. An academic leader of his caliber is rare and we’re certainly grateful that he has been committed to and supportive of our emergence as one of the top baccalaureate colleges in the Northeast.”

John D. Norton, director of the Center for Philosophy of Science, said, “It has been tremendously instructive to watch Provost Maher at work. We too easily lose sight of the importance to our University of leadership that seeks and sets good goals and develops realistic and effective plans to achieve them. Provost Maher has a real talent for it and we have all benefited greatly as a result.”

Maher will remain as provost until the beginning of next academic year, or as soon after that as his successor can be in place.

In accepting Maher’s resignation, Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg stated in a prepared release, “It is hard to imagine anyone being better at his or her job than Jim Maher has been as our provost. Among the many positive qualities that he brought to this key leadership role are his extraordinary breadth of knowledge, a well-developed ability to identify talented individuals and to anticipate academic trends and a deep dedication to Pitt that has extended across most of his adult life. I will miss working with him on a daily basis when he leaves the Provost’s office,” Nordenberg continued in the statement issued on Tuesday.

“However, particularly given the knowledge and insights that Provost Maher has acquired over the past 15 years, he will remain a unique institutional asset, and we will find other ways, in addition to his contributions as a faculty member, to make use of his special talents for the further advancement of Pitt,” the chancellor stated.

According to the prepared statement, during Maher’s years as provost the University made significant strides on wide-ranging fronts — dramatically increasing applications for admission; elevating the academic credentials of admitted students and boosting enrollments; promoting instructional innovation and supporting the creative use of new teaching technologies; adding substantially to on-campus housing capacity and enriching the quality of student life; enhancing overall research strength while moving into new areas of inquiry and creating programs for the commercialization of technology; designing and implementing plans for the development of facilities and infrastructure to support academic programs while maintaining fiscal discipline, and reaching out to alumni, donors and other friends in more effective ways.

The provost was unavailable for comment as the University Times went to press, but in the prepared statement said: “I am very proud to have been a key member of Chancellor Nordenberg’s team during these years of dramatic progress for the University. I am optimistic that the University of Pittsburgh will continue to elevate itself among the nation’s best research universities, and I only regret that I cannot go on indefinitely in pursuit of that goal. I am deeply grateful to the chancellor and to all of my colleagues in the University community for the teamwork and dedication to the University that have characterized our years together.”

Maher earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Notre Dame and his master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from Yale University. He served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Argonne National Laboratory before joining the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1970, serving as chair, 1991-94.

He also served as director of the Scaife Nuclear Physics Laboratory, 1979-80.

In 1994 Maher moved into the provost’s office, succeeding Nordenberg who had been serving as interim provost following the retirement of Donald Henderson in 1993.

Maher also has been a longstanding resident fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science. He has published numerous papers in the fields of nuclear physics and statistical condensed matter physics, as well as presenting at professional conferences and serving as a visiting scientist at a number of other universities.He is an elected fellow of both the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As provost, Maher serves as chair of both the University planning and budgeting committee and the Council of Deans. He also serves as co-chair of the University’s facilities planning committee.

He also has served as principal liaison to the academic affairs and libraries committee of the Board of Trustees.

Maher oversees the schools outside of the Health Sciences, the four regional campuses, a number of major centers and such other areas as admissions, computing and information systems, student life and the University Library System. Among Maher’s positions of leadership in both national and regional organizations are recent service as chair of the chief academic officers section of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and service on the boards of BioOne, the Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, St. Vincent Seminary and WQED Multimedia.

He is a commissioner of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and served on the Association of American Universities (AAU)/National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges task force on accreditation. He was a member of the AAU’s intellectual property task force and a co-author of its formative report, “Intellectual Property and New Media Technologies: A Framework for Development at AAU Institutions.”

He also was invited by the AAU and the Association of Research Libraries to help write the “Tempe Principles for Emerging Systems of Scholarly Publishing,” a set of principles designed to guide the transformation of the scholarly publishing system.

The chancellor has named Randy Juhl, vice chancellor for research conduct and compliance and former dean of the School of Pharmacy, as chair of the search committee to identify Maher’s successor.

Senior staff support to the committee will be provided by B. Jean Ferketish, secretary of the University’s Board of Trustees and assistant chancellor. Search committee members will be named in the next few weeks, Pitt officials said.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 42 Issue 6

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