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Sanford dean to step down at the end of the academic year

When Bruce Kuniholm steps down from his position as dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at the end of this academic year, many are confident that he will leave behind an enduring legacy.

Having worked at Sanford since the 1970s, Kuniholm said he believes it is time for a new generation head the school’s leadership, especially as Sanford prepares for a $90 million fundraising campaign to begin next Fall.

“I think it’s important when people are in a position of responsibility to know when it’s time to step down,” he said. “We’re about to embark on a capital campaign.… It does seem to me that whoever’s in the responsibility of leading in Sanford should own that vision. That means something like an eight to 10 year commitment.”

Kuniholm, who received a doctorate from Duke in 1976, accepted a five-year contract as Sanford dean in 2009, though he said he always anticipated that he would step down in the summer of 2012, in order to pursue more writing and teaching opportunities before retirement.

Before becoming dean, Kuniholm served as director of the Sanford Institute from 1989 to 1994 and 2005 to 2009. That year, he lead Sanford’s transition from an institute to a school, ultimately becoming the school’s founding dean.

Philip Cook, senior associate dean for faculty and research and professor of public policy studies and economics, said the new dean will inherit a school in great academic and financial standing. Cook, who served as Sanford’s director from 1985 to 1989 and 1997 to 1999, attributed much of Sanford’s success to Kuniholm’s no-nonsense but compassionate leadership.

“There is kind of a feeling that there has been an old guard that has taken responsibility for providing leadership,” Cook said. “The faculty is very much in a position to pick up the torch and preserve the ideas that have been with us from the beginning in the early 1970s.”

In an email to the Sanford faculty sent Monday, Kuniholm listed several goals achieved under his purview, including Sanford’s transition to an independent school, the $40 million raised for the endowment, doubling the size of the school’s faculty and developing strategic plans for its future. He was sure to note, however, the communal effort that made these achievements possible.

“None of these accomplishments were my accomplishments—they were faculty accomplishments,” Kuniholm said in an interview Wednesday. “Our faculty is transforming student lives, and we’ve got a much greater capacity to do that now.”

Joel Fleishman, professor of law and public policy studies and Sanford director from 1971 to 1982, added that Kuniholm was instrumental in the school’s expansion, particularly the creation of the Sanford building in 1994.

“The school is so much better because of [Kuniholm], in terms of all the mechanisms that had to be put into place,” Fleishman said. “His stamp is on every one of those decisions, and everyone involved in the school knows that.”

Helen Ladd, Edgar T. Thompson Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and professor of economics, will lead the search to find Kuniholm’s replacement. Ladd said the committee will conduct both an internal, national and international search.

The University hopes to present a candidate to the Board of Trustees in late February, Provost Peter Lange said.

Kuniholm, who is nearing the age of 70, said he has accumulated several sabbaticals that he would like to take in order to write one more book, likely on the uses of history. He also noted that he has not taught in more than five years. He hopes he can return to teaching before fully retiring.

“He has given himself to the place night and day,” Fleishman said. “He has been an inspiring leader for the administration, faculty and students... He is entitled to a little rest.”

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