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Top brass gear up for transition

Despite a remarkably high level of turnover in the senior administration this year, top officials said they are confident of a smooth transition when the bulk of the new crop arrives this summer.

The lengthy list of departing administrators from the last two years includes many names that have long been associated with the University.

President Nan Keohane, Chancellor and CEO of the Duke University Health System Ralph Snyderman, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe, Dean of the School of Nursing Mary Champagne, Vice President for Institutional Equity Sally Dickson, Vice President for Financial Services Michael Mandl, Duke University Museum of Art Director Michael Mezzatesta, Assistant Vice President for Administration Dan Rodas, Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Joe Pietrantoni and Director of Facilities Management Jerry Black have all either left or are on their way out.

With the Dec. 31, 2003, conclusion of the Campaign for Duke, Senior Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development John Piva's future plans are unknown.

This tremendous transition has already begun, with President-elect Richard Brodhead of Yale University and George McLendon of Princeton University leading the infusion of administrators from the Ivy League and elsewhere who have been enlisted to replace the old guard. Vice President for Financial Services Hof Milam and Vice President for Campus Services Kemel Dawkins are well into their first years on the job, and of the major vacancies, only Snyderman, Champagne and Mezzatesta's positions have yet to be filled.

The general consensus among remaining senior administrators is that the new crew's energy and heterogeneous views will make up for what is lost in the transition.

"You're losing a heck of a lot of institutional memory," said Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations John Burness. "On the other hand... there are times when a fresh perspective is a very healthy kind of thing."

Burness, Provost Peter Lange, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta form the core group of remaining administrators, along with most of the academic deans. During the early months of the transition, these old hands will be called on for their expertise in the nuanced ways of the University.

For Lange, the added burden of preparing clear and comprehensive briefs about his work for incoming administrators has proven to be invigorating. "I think it's really exciting, to be honest with you," he said. "'Exactly what am I working on? I've got 45 minutes. Distill it down.'"

Lange said helping with administrative turnover does not make him more likely to remain as provost, a position he has held since 1999. "I want to stay long because I want to," he said. "Ensuring continuity is a pretty lifeless goal. It's not something you get up for in the morning."

The Allen Building academic trio of Keohane, Lange and Chafe will soon become Brodhead, Lange and McLendon. Numerous administrators pointed out with delight that the social scientists of the previous troika have been replaced by a balanced threesome of a humanist, a social scientist and a natural scientist, respectively.

Burness said, however, that the seamless meshing of personalities would be more important than any disciplinary complements in determining how well the new brass works together. "It's fit, it's people, it's how they work as a team," he said.

Brodhead and McLendon are frequently described as possessing great "energy," and their mere presence may enhance the vitality of the policymaking process of the administration. Both men will certainly have priorities of their own, but their question-asking and status quo-challenging will also infuse the old guard with some fresh energy, administrators said.

"Now I can suck energy off the arrival of a new president or a new dean to push... new initiatives or push existing initiatives," Lange said.

Moneta said he would be reactive in waiting to see what Brodhead's new priorities are for student affairs. Moneta is himself relatively new to Duke, having arrived from the University of Pennsylvania in 2001, but will enter next fall as an entrenched veteran.

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