University Executive Vice President Mark Burstein was named to the presidency at Lawrence University, a small liberal arts college in Appleton, Wisc., Thursday morning. The announcement concluded Burstein’s search for an opportunity to lead another institution, a process that began last year.
After he became one of two final presidential candidates at Dickinson College, he removed his name from that search in October, shortly after he had visited the campus. However, one Dickinson student close to the search process who was not authorized to speak about the candidate selection process disputed Burstein’s claim, noting the school had chosen former Williams College dean Nancy Roseman over him. Burstein said he has only considered the presidencies at Dickinson and Lawrence in the past several months.
“I care deeply about liberal arts and liberal arts colleges,” said Burstein, an alumnus of Vassar College and a member of its board of trustees. “I decided I should put my money where my mouth is and invest in a liberal arts college.”
In October, Burstein told The Daily Princetonian he had declined the position at Dickinson because his visit there “reminded me of how much I enjoy to lead Princeton.” But on Thursday, Burstein said he was interested in the Lawrence job because the school was a good fit.
“I’m a firm believer that to think about leading an institution, you really need to find one that fits with your intellectual interests and leadership style,” Burstein said. “Throughout the fall, Lawrence was my number-one opportunity.”
Lawrence, founded in 1847 and located 100 miles north of Milwaukee, enrolls about 1,500 students, including those that study at its music conservatory. Its current president, Jill Beck, announced her intention to retire in February.
University President Shirley Tilghman said she and Burstein have been discussing his future career options over the last six to 12 months. She added it is natural for Burstein to look at leadership positions at other universities.
“He has been in the role for nine years. In university administration, that is a long time to have been in a role, and he clearly has ambitions that he wants to fulfill in the last few years of his career,” she explained. “And that is to be expected, that someone like Mark Burstein, who is still a relatively young man, would be thinking about, well, do I want to stay at Princeton University for the rest of my career, or do I want to become the leader of another institution?”
Tilghman, who will also be stepping down in June, added it is not unusual for administrators to look for new opportunities during a presidential transition.
“I think some of these kinds of natural transition is actually good for the institution,” Tilghman noted. “We should just see it as part of the natural order and just have the confidence — which is really important — that we’ll choose someone as good as Mark Burstein.”
In November, Burstein did not respond to a request for comment on whether he would step down along with Tilghman.
According to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua, the administration has yet to set an agenda regarding the selection of Burstein’s successor. Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee ’69 also said the University is not “ready to be thinking about a successor yet.”
In June, Burstein will have served as executive vice president for a total of nine years, over which he helped to develop a sustainability plan to reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions and established the four-year residential college system with the Office of the Dean of the College. Burstein was also responsible for initiating the “campus master plan,” a long-term project dedicated to developing the campus grounds.
Tilghman noted that Burstein will be remembered for working with University Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 to make sure the University survived the economic recession of 2008. She added he has had an impact on several aspects of campus life and administration.
“There is not a single capital project on campus that doesn’t have his fingerprints all over it,” she said. “Everything that we have renovated or constructed was overseen by Mark.”
Burstein noted that while Lawrence seems to be the right fit, he will miss the campus community.
“We are so lucky to participate in a University that has extraordinary talent, and that talent is on the playing field, it’s in performance, it’s in student government, it’s on The Daily Princetonian,” he said. “The level of quality at Princeton has just been a pleasure to engage in and to be an audience of.”
Senior writer Patience Haggin contributed reporting.