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Alumnus Schoenfeld to take top PR post

Michael Schoenfeld, Trinity '84 and vice chancellor for public affairs at Vanderbilt University, will sign on as Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations July 1, President Richard Brodhead announced Monday.

"Mike Schoenfeld brings an extraordinary breadth of experience to this critical position," Brodhead said in a statement. "His colleagues at Vanderbilt and elsewhere praise his good humor and ability to bring people together, and his intelligence and strategic sense are immediately obvious."

He will succeed John Burness, who has served as senior vice president for government affairs and public relations since 1991.

"He's very, very talented, very savvy, [great] with new technology and he also understands the values of the University," Burness said of Schoenfeld. "It's a wonderful appointment."

Schoenfeld was chosen by a 12-member committee of faculty members, trustees, administrators and alumni chaired by Gregory Jones, dean of the Divinity School. Jones said the committee worked with consultants and conducted a nationwide search for candidates from a diverse set of backgrounds for the position.

"As [they] moved through the process, it became apparent that Mike Schoenfeld had a remarkable set of skills, experience, judgment and strategic vision that suited him extremely well for the job," he wrote in an e-mail. "The search committee enthusiastically recommended his appointment to President Brodhead."

Brodhead also lauded Schoenfeld's experience in new media, noting that Schoenfeld helped shape one of the most effective communications programs in the country and that his technological advances opened possibilities to reach people worldwide.

"I have been a fan, an early adopter of and very interested in both the strategy and the tactics of new media," Schoenfeld said. "I get very antsy if we're not on the leading edge, if not the bleeding edge-the power [of technology] is just tremendous. You don't want to use technology just for the sake of technology, but when you effectively deploy new media... you can reach literally billions of people instantly and for free."

A decade ago, Schoenfeld was named Vanderbilt's first vice chancellor for public affairs, a post for which Burness had recommended him. During Schoenfeld's tenure, Vanderbilt developed a broader public affairs division with a satellite television broadcast facility and a radio production center and widened its scope of Internet services. The university also received a number of public affairs honors.

Schoenfeld was formerly senior vice president for policy and public affairs at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C.

Schoenfeld said he had not been planning to leave Vanderbilt, but he was eager to return to and work for his alma mater.

"I wasn't looking for the position, but obviously I knew about it and I have known John Burness for many years-he has been a good friend and a mentor of mine," Schoenfeld said. "The more time I spent with President Brodhead and the more time I spent with his senior team, the more excited I became.... The opportunity at Duke simply became irresistible."

He added that he plans to spend a considerable amount of time learning about the University as he makes his transition.

"I have been following Duke as an alum-and as a competitor because I have been at Vanderbilt-but the place has changed a lot since I've been there," he said. "It's become a better, stronger and more diverse university. The essential part of the Duke experience is still there... [but] I have a lot to learn."

Schoenfeld said he hopes to build upon Duke's strengths and work on local, national, on-campus and community issues. He also plans to work on major public policy issues, including challenges with the federal budget and whatever changes the upcoming presidential election will bring to higher education.

Jones called Schoenfeld's ties to Duke another "compelling" element of the committee's search.

Schoenfeld and his wife, Elizabeth Temple Schoenfeld, also Trinity '84, married in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in 1987.

"The University has a very special personal place for us-the whole family looks forward to coming to Durham and to being part of the community and the University community," he said.


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