University of Rochester

Provost Charles Phelps Announces Retirement

November 9, 2006

Charles E. Phelps, University of Rochester provost and eminent health care economist, will retire after 13 years as the University's chief academic officer at the end of this academic year, and a search committee has been formed to choose his successor, President Joel Seligman announced today.

Phelps has made significant contributions to the University as teacher, scholar, and leader since 1984. In partnership with former President Thomas H. Jackson for 11 years and now with Seligman, Phelps has advanced the stature of the University by raising faculty excellence and by attracting national visibility on issues of significance for higher education such as intellectual property rights and copyright protections for peer-to-peer file sharing.

"He is a splendid analyst with a nimble mind, who has institutional knowledge and decision making skills that have been particularly important in focusing on pivotal University-wide issues, including research policy and compliance, budgeting, intellectual property, and strategic planning," said Seligman. "He's been an amazingly important provost on the national scene and is highly respected. He also has played an extraordinary role in shaping our University leadership by chairing searches for a dozen senior leaders."

The president has appointed 12 members of the University community to serve on the search committee for the next provost. Phelps will continue as provost at least until July 1, 2007, or until his successor is in place.

A significant part of Phelps' academic career has been spent bridging disciplines and sharing information and ideas. At present, he is professor of political science, economics, and community and preventive medicine at the University. Throughout the years, he has achieved national and international recognition for his scholarly research.

He was elected in 1991 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, has served on the Board of Trustees of the Council on Library and Information Resource for nine years—the last two as chair of the board. Since 2002, he has been a member of the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council, which is the primary quality control mechanism for the National Academies. He also has been a member of the Board of the Center for Research Libraries since 2003.

On the Rochester scene, he is a member of the board of VirtualScopics, a provider of advanced medical imaging analysis services that was founded by University scientists.

As provost, Phelps has made a concerted effort to teach a course on health economics every year for upper-level undergraduate students. He has helped supervise the dissertations of 27 doctoral students with three now in progress. His textbook, Health Economics, is in its third edition and has been translated into French and Chinese. His engaging teaching style attracts large numbers of students, and the Charles Phelps Award bears his name for the best honors thesis in the College's Health and Society program.

During his tenure, Phelps and other University leaders re-engineered the focus of the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering through the Renaissance Plan, and reinvigorated the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Phelps earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., and both his M.B.A. in hospital administration and doctoral degree in economics from the University of Chicago. Before coming to Rochester, he worked as a senior economist at the RAND Corporation.

Members of the search committee, which the president will chair, are: Mark Bocko, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Brian Brent, associate professor and associate dean of graduate studies at the Warner School of Education; Howard J. Federoff, M.D., professor of neurology, medicine, microbiology and immunology at the Medical Center; Gerald Gamm, associate professor of political science and history, and chair of the Department of Political Science; Bette London, professor of English; Richard Niemi, Don Alonzo Watson professor of political science; Lynne H. Orr, professor of physics; Thomas Pearson, M.D., Albert D. Kaiser professor and chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine; Marie Rolf, professor of music theory and associate dean of graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music; James VanDemark, professor of double bass at the Eastman School; Joanna S. Wu, associate professor of accounting at the Simon School of Business; and Jerold L. Zimmerman, Ronald L. Bittner professor of business administration and professor of accounting at the Simon School.

Once a national search firm is chosen, the formal process of accepting nominations for provost will begin, said Seligman. Finalists also will be interviewed by the senior leadership group of the University, the senior leadership group of the Medical Center, representatives of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and a Board of Trustees Advisory Committee, which will be chaired by Hugo Sonnenschein, former president of the University of Chicago. The trustee group will include the chair of the Board of Trustees, G. Robert Witmer Jr.; Sheila Blumstein, the Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and former interim president at Brown University; and Cathy E. Minehan, chair of the board's executive committee and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.