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The Board of Trustees will name Richard Brodhead, dean of Yale College and the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of English at Yale University, as Duke University's ninth president at a special press conference in the Rare Book Room at 10:30 a.m. today.

Brodhead, who has spent his entire academic career at Yale and is known as a passionate supporter of undergraduate students, will succeed President Nan Keohane when she steps down from the position July 1, 2004.

"I am tremendously excited to join a university that has already established itself in the top rank of institutions, yet is still so up-and-coming," Brodhead said in a statement. "Duke is a school with a taste for excellence, the energy and optimism to aspire to it, the dynamism and lightness of foot to actually make required changes and the ability to avoid complacency in the face of accomplishment."

Peter Nicholas, chair of the Board of Trustees, which unanimously approved the selection Sunday, called Brodhead "the ideal person" to lead Duke into the next stage of its history.

"Dick is a scholar with a deep commitment to undergraduate and graduate education, a proven and effective administrator and fundraiser who understands how research universities work, and an eloquent spokesman about the central role of higher education in American life," Nicholas said in a statement. "As one of his faculty colleagues at Yale put it, 'His performance is brilliant. Students love him, the faculty trust him, the alumni are in awe of him.' Duke's Trustees are confident that the qualities that have led Dick Brodhead to be so revered in New Haven will also serve him well as our next president."

Brodhead takes the reigns at a high, yet critical point in Duke's history. Ranked in the top five nationally on both the University and Medical Center sides, Duke is just completing a wildly-successful $2 billion capital campaign that is fueling the most ambitious wave of strategic initiatives and facility construction since James B. Duke founded the University in 1924.

Yet, perhaps mostly due to its youth, Duke still lags behind its peers in terms of national and international reputation. University officials hope Brodhead will propel Duke into the creme de la creme of national research universities--Yale included.

"We expect Dick to be an eloquent spokesman for research, scholarship and teaching not only at Duke, but on the national stage," Sara Sun Beale, Charles L.B. Lowndes Professor of Law and search committee vice chair, said in a statement.

Brodhead received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in English from Yale and immediately entered the Ivy League school's faculty as an associate professor in English. He rose swiftly through the ranks, taking over as chair of the English department in 1988. He stepped down from the chair when he was named dean of Yale College, a position with broad power that combines aspects of the provost and dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences positions at Duke.

He has garnered a reputation as a dean that students love and faculty respect, and has long been sought by other schools looking for presidents.

"I have had other tempting invitations in the past to consider leaving Yale but I have always declined. Duke is a special place, however, and its allure in the end was overwhelming," Brodhead said in a statement. "I know I'm facing an immense amount of new learning and challenge, but I expect that to be a pleasure as well. I am looking forward to becoming both a Blue Devil and a part of the vibrant Durham community."

When Brodhead arrives officially on campus next summer, he will face very different challenges from those that Keohane met in 1993. Most significantly, Brodhead will not have the pressure to devote a considerable amount of his time to fundraising, as the University wraps up its seven-year Campaign for Duke in just 19 days, having amassed an astounding $2.2 billion. Brodhead also inherits Building on Excellence, the University's strategic plan that has spawned hundreds of initiatives, both large and small, and the construction of countless new facilities.

The president-elect, will, however, need to help form and lead the Campaign and strategic plan's eventual successors, as well as continue to fine-tune the relationship among the Duke University Health System, the Duke University Medical Center and the University. Brodhead has little experience in this latter area, and may present his greatest learning curve. Other issues closer to Brodhead's heart should also prove critical during his tenure, especially undergraduate student life issues, where the building of the new West Campus student center and the Central Campus University Village promise to become the most significant and campus-altering student life endeavors in recent memory.

Not just popular academic buzz words, interdisciplinary and internationalization initiatives will likely continue to gain ground as some of the most significant academic priorities for Duke, and the direction the new president takes in these areas may be the greatest measurer of his ability to translate his work as a top academic dean to that as president.

Brodhead's work will be buttressed by Duke's current senior officers and school deans--a highly cooperative and ambitious crop of administrative prowess--the collection of whom may be Keohane's greatest legacy.

"Duke's core values are quite close to my own and I will represent them with real dedication," Brodhead said in a statement. "I also feel the institution would welcome changes in the places where I see room for growth. If I can be a part of making a very good university even better, it will be a great satisfaction."

The Presidential Search Committee has been meeting since the summer, and was expected to make its recommendation to the Board of Trustees before its February meetings. Search Committee Chair and Trustees Vice Chair Robert Steel said the committee considered more than 200 candidates before selecting Brodhead unanimously.

Nicholas told members of the press as recently as Saturday that the committee was making good progress and had arrived at a "narrow list" of candidates. Just 24 hours later, the Board met to approve Brodhead, the lone member of that narrow list, as its ninth president.

SLIDE SHOW: BIG SHOES TO FILL: A profile of the eight Duke presidents and other leaders in the institution's history who walked before Brodhead