Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced Monday morning she will leave the University of Wisconsin at the end of the 2021-22 academic year to become the president of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Blank has served as the UW chancellor since 2013 and is the longest-serving chancellor since 1986. Blank has the second-longest tenure of any current Big Ten public institution president or chancellor. A well-known economist, Blank has worked in three different presidential elections, including acting as the Secretary of Commerce under Barack Obama.
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UW System President Tommy Thompson and UW System Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III both praised Blank’s work in statements.
“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,” Thompson said. “On behalf of the University of Wisconsin System, I want to thank her for her service to our state and wish her well at Northwestern.”
Under Blank’s term as chancellor, UW’s six-year graduation rate reached its highest rate ever at 89%. The graduation gap for undergraduates between white students and historically underrepresented students has been cut nearly in half over the last 10 years and institutional scholarship aid has quadrupled — from $25 million in 2012 to almost $100 million this year.
Blank was named 2021 Distinguished Fellow by the American Economic Association, while also receiving the 2015 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize from the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said Blank has allowed “ample time” for the transition.
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“She will remain at UW through the 2021-22 academic year and stay active in key efforts such as the UW System President search, future budget planning and continued progress on the Raimey-Noland Campaign to support diversity, equity and inclusion,” McGlone said. “She has also put in place a strong leadership team to keep the university moving forward.”
UW has not released information about who will replace Blank or what the hiring process will look like.
“Even as I look forward to my next adventure, there are many things I will miss about UW, from game days on fall Saturdays to evenings on the Terrace to gathering each May in Camp Randall for graduation,” Blank said in an email to the university. “Most of all, I will miss all of you, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, talking with, and working with over my years here.”
This story was updated at 12:15 p.m. to reflect a statement from UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone.