Office of the President, Lee C. Bollinger

Announcement Regarding Provost Claude M. Steele

Office of the Provost 

June 13, 2011

Dear Columbia Colleagues:

It is with a mix of emotions, the first of which is a genuine sadness, that I write to let you know that I have accepted a position as Dean of the School of Education at Stanford University, beginning in the fall of this year.  Given my excitement about Columbia's future and my deep engagement working with Lee and so many of you in planning for it, this was far from an easy decision – perhaps the most difficult of my career.  Dorothy and I pulled up stakes and came east after 18 years at Stanford fully expecting Morningside Heights to be our personal and professional home for many years to come and we had no thoughts of leaving anytime soon.  I love the job I have.  It is a fascinating, challenging and constantly stimulating experience to be the Provost of a great research university, especially one that is thriving on so many important fronts and that is so well led by Lee, an extraordinary team of deans, as well as by its faculty.  And we love being in New York.

But life doesn't always go as planned.  The decision to accept the Stanford offer came down to a difficult-to-pass-up opportunity to play a role in the field of education at this critical time in our nation's history.  I have spent my career trying to understand processes that drive educational achievement, and how to reduce the group inequalities in school achievement that so plague our society.  In my new role I will have a chance to develop the implications of that work for policy and practice in schools and school systems – as well as to influence how educators themselves are educated.  It is an important time to be rejoining that vital mission.  Nothing less than this rare opportunity to do so at such a strong school of education could have lured me away from my current position at Columbia.

So, while I did not and would not have sought any other academic leadership post at this stage in my career, the chance to have an impact on this critical public issue, as well as the promise of a little more time for scholarship and writing, proved too attractive to turn down – a decision that was further bolstered by its bringing our family back together in the same time zone.

We will always be thankful for the way we have been welcomed at Columbia, we leave with considerable regret but also confidence that this personal change for us will in no way slow the extraordinary forward momentum that this university has established.  I will forever be a friend to Columbia and a colleague in the missions we will continue to share.

With the warmest of wishes,

Claude M. Steele




Office of the President

June 13, 2011

Dear Fellow Members of the Columbia Community:

Though personally saddened by Claude's decision to return to Stanford, I completely understand this life choice.  Given Claude's great talents and the importance of the issues he wants to explore and resolve, this is clearly a benefit to society, while it is equally a loss for us at Columbia.  I would add that choosing the right course for one's professional and family life is rarely easy, and we can all empathize with how difficult this has been as Claude and Dorothy weighed this unexpected opportunity.  

I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from working with Claude over these past two years.  On behalf of the institution, we all appreciate his many contributions to our community, not least his embodiment of an outstanding scholar and teacher.  

I will write again shortly with a plan for an interim provost to begin the new academic year and a process to select the next provost.


Lee C. Bollinger