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New Haven - With Yale University President Richard C. Levin stepping down after two decades leading the Ivy League school, the opening of one of the most coveted jobs in higher education is expected to draw top talent.
Levin announced Thursday he would leave the post at the end of the academic year. His successor will inherit substantial campus renovations that Levin presided over and a dramatically grown endowment that is second only to Harvard University.
Yale will be looking for a candidate who can continue expanding the university globally while also finding ways to pay for generous financial aid and recruiting leaders in their fields, experts said.
"The university is in great shape," said law professor and former Yale Law School dean Tony Kronman. "Even the greatest institution does not maintain itself without care and custodial attention."
The search committee will consist of eight trustees and four faculty members, Edward P. Bass, senior fellow of the Yale Corporation, the university's governing body, wrote in a letter Friday to the Yale community outlining the plans. The committee will identify and screen candidates and provide a short list of several nominees to the corporation.
Yale also plans a series of open forums on campus to get advice on the qualities needed in the next president and the priorities that should be pursued, Bass said.
"The selection of the president is the most important responsibility of the Yale Corporation, and we are committed to recruiting an individual who will be an exceptional leader for Yale in the years ahead and who will continue the extraordinary momentum achieved during Rick Levin's two decades as president," Bass wrote.
With its history of educating future presidents and business leaders, the search for a new president at Yale is likely to attract big names.
"I think they're going to have a remarkable pool of talent to select from," said Stephen Trachtenberg, who spent three decades as president of the University of Hartford and George Washington University. "My guess is they're going to have the cream of the crop there."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who graduated from Yale Law School and plans to quit her post, could emerge as a candidate, he said.
"When I talk about world class candidates, she'd be one of the people you'd put into the pool," Trachtenberg said. "She's of the caliber and the standing of the kinds of candidates Yale will seek to attract and should."
A message was left at the Secretary of State's office.
Several Ivy League universities have appointed women presidents. Yale has been led by men, other than Hanna Holborn Gray who served for one year as acting president in 1977-78.
"I would say other things being equal they will choose a woman, but I don't think they would choose a woman if there was a much stronger male candidate," said Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who has written extensively about leadership. "Other things being equal, I think there is a lot of cache now in not having another white male."
Yale could face calls for a woman president after a federal investigation over its handling of sexual harassment in response to a complaint filed by students. U.S. Department of Education officials raised concerns with how complaints were handled in the past but praised the steps the university has taken and found no violations.
"One way to underscore how serious they are might be to appoint a woman president," Trachtenberg said in a statement. "There will be faculty, students, alumni, etc. who will urge that they do that for symbolic as well as substantive reasons."
Yale is likely to look for someone similar to Levin who is young, energetic, relatively low key, has connections with Yale and an ability to raise cash, Gardner said.
Yale typically picks presidents who work at the university or have close connections, said Gaddis Smith, a Yale historian. Peter Salovey, who was appointed provost in 2008 and earlier served as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Yale College, is among those likely to get serious consideration, he said.
The new president will oversee plans to open a joint campus in Singapore next year and two new residential colleges in New Haven that will be the largest expansion in decades. Levin's successor also will need to deepen ties in places such as India, Kronman said.