In an email to students this week, Lipton announced Berkley’s election as chair-designate, a 16-month transitionary position ending in October 2015, when Berkley will become chair in full.
Lipton, who has chaired the board for 16 years, will remain on in a lesser capacity, as one of the board’s 65 acting members. “I am getting too old and have served too long,” Lipton said of his retirement in a New York Times this April.
Berkley, the chair and CEO of insurance holding company W. R. Berkley Corporation, has a long history with the university. A graduate from the Stern School in 1966, Berkley joined Stern’s Board of Overseers in 1987, the NYU Board of Trustees in 1995, and the NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been a Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees since 2004.
Berkley’s instatement as chair in 2015 comes at an important juncture for NYU, as the university replaces both its Board of Trustees chair and its university president; John Sexton has previously announced that he will step down following the 2015-2016 school year. The Board of Trustees will lead the search for Sexton’s replacement.
“The new chairman would be responsible for the process that selects the president who will replace John Sexton,” board member Evan R. Chesler told the Times.
Where does Berkley stand on the policy issues that a future university president will decide? In word, Berkley has stood by Lipton during some of the current chair’s more controversial moments. While NYU faculty demanded Lipton’s resignation last year, due in part to the sentiment that Lipton ignored faculty voices, Berkley maintained that “Marty was always open to a dialogue about issues.”
Berkley also defended Sexton’s long-debated philosophy of expansion. “John antagonized a lot of people trying to move a large institution into the 21st century. But we believed it was more of a fringe group than it ended up being. The straw that broke the camel’s back was 2031,” he told the Times. “It was a great idea that was not put forward in a way people understood.”
Outside the Board of Trustees, Berkley sponsors an MBA scholarship for exceptional Stern seniors. The William R. Berkley Scholarship Program covers two full years of MBA scholarship, plus an additional $28,000 in stipends for housing and books each year.
“On behalf of my Board colleagues and the entire NYU community, I offer Bill our congratulations,” Lipton wrote in his email. “The coming years will be important ones for NYU — indeed, for higher education in general — and I am confident the future of the University will be in superb hands under his leadership.”