A New Leader for the UW

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Rebecca Blank. Photo: Bryce Richter.

Commerce secretary named to begin chancellor post in July.

UW–Madison has a new chancellor.

The UW Board of Regents appointed Rebecca Blank to the position at a meeting in April, selecting her from four finalists named by a campus search-and-screen committee after sifting through nearly seventy candidates.

Blank first applied for the UW job in 2008, when the regents hired Carolyn “Biddy” Martin PhD’85 to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of John Wiley MS’65, PhD’68.

For the last four years, Blank has been in Washington, D.C., where she currently serves as acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, a job she says is not unlike running a big and complex university, given its twelve agencies and 47,000 employees.

Blank will begin work as the UW’s chancellor in July, following a two-year period with David Ward MS’62, PhD’63 as interim chancellor.

“Rebecca Blank has the demonstrated leadership skills to succeed as chancellor and maintain UW–Madison’s standard of excellence,” Ward says. “Her experience in the academic world and at the Department of Commerce will be critical as the university continues conducting research, creating new ways to teach our students, and reaching out to the state and the world.”

Blank earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For nine years, she served as dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She also has taught at MIT, Northwestern, and Princeton.

In 1985, Blank was a visiting professor at the UW for a semester. “I have been on the Madison campus many times, and you can feel the energy from both students and faculty,” she wrote in a statement as a chancellor candidate. “Your alumni are loyal. And you have one of the most beautiful campus settings in the country.”

Despite her time in the federal government, Blank notes she has been a researcher and teacher most of her life, and is elated to return to a college campus.

“I’m ready to come home again,” she wrote.

Published in the Summer 2013 issue

Tags: administration, UW System

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