Robert Kasdin, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the University of Michigan, has been named to the newly created position of senior executive vice president of Columbia University by President-elect Lee C. Bollinger.
Kasdin, who will assume his new position in July 2002, previously served as treasurer and chief investment officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as vice president and general counsel of the Princeton University Investment Company.
As Columbia's senior executive vice president, Kasdin will help Bollinger shape his new administration and apply his management and financial expertise to a variety of departments and programs including areas in the health sciences and university computing. As new initiatives begin, Kasdin's portfolio will expand.
"Columbia is very fortunate, indeed, to have the prospect of benefiting from the extraordinary talents of Robert Kasdin," said Bollinger. "Having worked closely with Robert for the last five years, I can say without qualification that he is one of the finest, most creative academic administrators in the nation.
"Columbia is experiencing remarkable institutional momentum, with the happy consequence that there are more and more things to be done. Robert is an ideal person to add now to insure that we accomplish as much as we possibly can in the years ahead."
Said Kasdin of his appointment, "Lee has offered me a wonderful opportunity to join a world-class university in a city that has been home to my family for almost a hundred years. I look forward to the challenge and the opportunity to serve."
Those who have worked with Kasdin in the past praised both his accomplishments and character.
William G. Bowen, president of the Andrew G. Mellon Foundation and former president of Princeton University (1973-1988), said, "I congratulate both Rob Kasdin and Columbia on Mr. Kasdin's appointment as senior executive vice president. I have known Rob since he was an undergraduate at Princeton, and I have been tremendously impressed by his accomplishments in the intervening years. He and President Bollinger were an outstanding team at Michigan, and I expect even more from them at Columbia.
"Rob is an extremely capable administrator who combines a wide range of analytical skills with a deep understanding of the mission of a great university and exceptional personal qualities. In addition, he has a deep knowledge of New York and of its cultural institutions, which makes him an especially good fit for Columbia."
Another former Princeton president, Harold T. Shapiro, who served in that post from 1988 to 2001 and who remains a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton, was equally laudatory in his comments about the appointment.
"I have known Rob Kasdin for well over a decade, which spans his time here at Princeton, his time at the Metropolitan Museum, and his tenure at the University of Michigan," said Shapiro. "In all these venues he has had a significant role in strengthening these institutions.
"I have come to regard him as one of my most valued colleagues in higher education. He is not only an efficient and imaginative administrator, but he never loses sight of the fact that the learning and scholarship of the faculty and students inform all critical decisions.
"Moreover he has rather remarkable intuition and understanding of the university's role in society and the special values it needs to promote and protect. President-elect Bollinger and the Columbia community are fortunate to have attracted his talents."
Neil Rudenstine, former president of Harvard University, is also a long-time colleague of Kasdin. "I have known Robert for more than 20 years professionally and as a friend, and he brings a very unusual combination of qualities," said Rudenstine. "First, he really understands universities and their purposes, and is aligned with those purposes. Second, he is a very talented person in terms of administrative abilities. And third, he is also an exceptional human being, a person of great integrity and one with whom you can immediately establish a rapport. He really cares about people.
"It's a great match, good for Robert and good for Columbia."
Finally, S. Parker Gilbert, former chairman of Morgan Stanley and currently president of the trustees of the Morgan Library and vice chairman of the board at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, added, "At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rob made great contributions to strengthening the business and financial aspects of the museum, and he helped attract other outstanding colleagues. It is great to have him back in New York. I know he will do a superb job at Columbia."
Kasdin received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1983 and his A.B. from Princeton University in 1980. He was a corporate attorney at the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell from 1983 to 1988, specializing in corporate law.
In 1988, he was named vice president and general counsel for the Princeton University Investment Co., the organization that oversees the investment of Princeton University's endowment.
Kasdin became treasurer and chief investment officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993. He was responsible for the museum's $1.1-billion investment portfolio, determining and executing debt strategies, and managing financial operations and accounting. Under his leadership the museum's endowment attained top-tier performance and received two credit-rating upgrades in three years.
At Michigan, Kasdin has oversight responsibility for the financial health of the university, including its schools, colleges, and health care system. He has direct responsibility for Michigan's $8-billion balance sheet; financial controls and audited financial statements; financial operations supporting the $3.8-billion operating budget; investment of the $5-billion investment portfolio; a human resources and employee benefits administration supporting 30,000 employees; administrative computing; operations and maintenance for 25-million-square-feet of facilities; and the planning, design, and construction of capital projects with an average annual budget of $150 million.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a trustee of the Peter T. Joseph Foundation and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
Kasdin is married to Claire Ullman, a political scientist whose research has focused on comparative social policy. She received an A.B., magna cum laude in social studies, from Harvard in 1984 and a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia in 1995. She has been a visiting professor in political science at Barnard College and a lecturer at the Wharton School and the School of Arts and Sciences of the University of Pennsylvania.
She is the author of "The Welfare State's Other Crisis: Explaining the New Partnership between Nonprofit Organizations and the State in France" (Indiana University Press, 1999). Among her many academic honors, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1996-97, speaker at Columbia's Ph.D. convocation in 1995, and both a Graduate Faculties Alumni Fellow and a President's Fellow at Columbia.
Kasdin and Ullman are the parents of three young children.