University of Rochester

Phelps Named New University Provost

March 3, 1994

Charles E. Phelps, a faculty member whose career has bridged the disciplines of the University's River Campus and Medical Center, has been named provost as of July 1. The provost is the institution's chief academic officer, to whom all of the University's deans report.

His appointment was confirmed today by the Board of Trustees' Executive Committee at the recommendation of Thomas H. Jackson, who becomes president July 1. As provost, Phelps succeeds Brian J. Thompson, who is retiring from the post after 10 years of service.

"The quality of the candidates from within the University for this position was superb, and reflects the genuine strength of the institution," Jackson said. "Chuck Phelps is the right person from that very strong group. He is ready, by temperament, training, and vision, for what I believe is the most challenging -- and important -- job at a university.

"Chuck has unusual intellectual breadth, strong academic values, an incisive and decisive mind, and a proven ability to work with all relevant constituencies, importantly among them faculty, students, and trustees. I look forward with considerable excitement to working closely with him."

Since 1989, Phelps has been professor of community and preventive medicine and chair of that department in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. At the River Campus, he is professor of political science and of economics, positions he has held since 1984.

From 1984 to 1989 he was director of the College of Arts and Science's Public Policy Analysis Program. He continues to teach a course in health economics at the River Campus and has been director of the undergraduate Health and Society program since that interdisciplinary major was established in 1984.

After earning a bachelor's degree from Pomona College, an M.B.A. in hospital administration and Ph.D. in business economics from the University of Chicago, Phelps served as staff economist and then as director of the Regulatory Policies and Institutions Programs and senior staff economist at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. He was also a faculty member at the RAND Graduate Institute.

In 1991 he was elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine, whose members are chosen for major contributions to health and medicine.

He has served as trustee of the Society for Medical Decision Making and as an officer of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Phelps is the author of the textbook Health Economics, published by HarperCollins in 1992, and is co-author of Free for All? Lessons from the RAND Health Insurance Experiment, published in 1993 by Harvard University Press. He has written more than 60 articles, chapters, reviews, and reports on the economics of health care.

His research interests and collaborations at the Medical Center have involved the medical school's departments of radiology, obstetrics, hematology, pediatrics, neurology, psychiatry, internal medicine, and cardiology, as well as the School of Nursing.

One of his current research projects is a federally-funded study of varying patterns of hospitalization and treatment for patients in different regions of New York State. A related study is investigating the diagnostic and treatment practices of individual primary care physicians.

Phelps is also involved in a study, headed by Dr. Alvin Mushlin, a colleague in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, examining the way primary care doctors use available diagnostic techniques when patients first report chest pain.

A resident of Pittsford, N.Y., Phelps helped found Greater Rochester Fights Back Against Drugs. On campus, he recently served as chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee for the presidential search.


"This appointment obviously represents a major change in my life's work, and, a few months ago, being University Provost would have been the further thing from my mind. But my participation in the presidential search last year brought me into contact with much University life that I'd not seen in detail before, and I found that I really enjoyed thinking about University matters. My already great affection for the University, and my understanding of how it functions, increased considerably during that process.

"The selection of Tom Jackson as the new president brought to me a sense of enthusiasm that I never could have envisioned. I look forward to working with Tom, and with the deans, faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, and staff to help make the University an even better and stronger institution than it is now. I share our new president's excitement about the future, and I hope that everyone in the University community will join us in our efforts."


"Chuck Phelps is an excellent choice to continue the University's tradition of strong provostial leadership. Like his predecessor, Brian Thompson, he brings to the position exceptional loyalty to the institution. Chuck's dedication to the University's mission and his determination to create a strengthened future were evident in his leadership of the faculty presidential search. This is a splendid beginning for the new administration."