Martin Lipton will step down as chairman of NYU’s board of trustees next year, the New York Times reports.
“I am getting too old and have served too long,” Lipton told the Times this Friday.
Lipton, who has been head of the board of trustees for 16 years, will remain on the board, but in a lesser capacity, as one of the board’s 65 acting members. His exit from the leadership position comes at a critical moment of change for the University: Lipton and President John Sexton are two of NYU’s most powerful directors. But with Lipton stepping down next year, and Sexton following in 2016, the University will soon undergo a significant change in leadership.
Lipton’s resignation will also affect the decision of NYU’s next president. According to the Times, Sexton was Lipton’s “handpicked choice” for president in 2002. With Lipton absent from the next selection process, the board might take a different direction in selecting the next university president.
This transition of leadership isn’t all radical change, though. Before leaving his position, Lipton will choose the group of trustees, students, and faculty who will lead the search for the next president. Lipton will also be a member of the committee that decides his own replacement as chair.
“Marty wants his own replacement there a year in advance,” Evan R. Chesler, chairman of a New York lawyer told the Times. “The new chairman would be responsible for the process that selects the president who will replace John Sexton.”
Chesler and William R. Berkley, chairman of an insurance holding company, are believed to be frontrunners to replace Lipton.
NYU’s current leadership has sparked an onslaught of recent criticism, both from within the University as well as from local and national advocacy groups. Last year, members of the NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP) wrote an open letter demanding Lipton step down as chairman of the board, citing Lipton’s alleged refusal to listen to faculty members, as well complaints about “maldistribution” of income among NYU faculty.
Vocal members of Greenwich Village and surrounding neighborhoods have also voiced complaints against the Lipton-supported NYU 2031 Plan that would build new NYU facilities in and around the Village.
According to John Beckman, NYU’s vice president for Public Affairs,
“Mr. Lipton made clear after his most recent appointment as Board Chair in 2011 that the four-year term to which he was appointed would be his last. So, the 2015 end of his tenure as Chair has been long-planned. The Board has begun the process of choosing a new chair; it is expected that the new chair will be named in time for an orderly transition.
At this point, the process for selecting a new president has not yet been established, so there are few details to offer. What I can say is that the Trustees have committed to faculty, student, and administrator representation on the search committee, in addition to the Trustees (whose responsibility it is to select the University’s president). It’s the role of the Board Chair — in this case, Mr. Lipton — to appoint the search committee.”
John Sexton’s official statement on Lipton’s resignation:
“For decades, Marty Lipton — one of the most respected and revered attorneys in the US — has devoted untold hours as alumnus, benefactor, faculty member, and trustee to the university from which he graduated with a law degree. It is one of the most magnificent stories of ‘giving back’ that I know.
“He and the other Trustees charted a course for NYU that took our University from being a regional university to a respected global research university that is admired far and wide for its drive, momentum, and accomplishments. And his record as chair since 1998 is extraordinary: nearly $6 billion in fundraising; tripling of the endowment; doubling of freshmen applicants; improvements in the academic qualifications of incoming students, and in major academic rankings; the restoration of engineering programs; major improvements at NYU’s medical center; expanded recruitment of tenured faculty and the creation of new areas of scholarship; the successful opening of two degree-granting campuses abroad; doubling in the financial budget; the achievement of sound and strong finances and credit rating.
“This is a remarkable record of achievement. And it was done through the generous way he shared his wisdom, his steadfastness, his confidence, and his belief in NYU’s promise and future.
“I don’t think any university anywhere could point to a chair who has done more his institution than Marty Lipton has done for NYU. He has been an incomparable Trustee and Chair”