Richard Hodges, director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, will step down from his position at the completion of his term in the summer of 2012.

Hodges, whose work focuses primarily on the Middle Ages in Europe, will return to Europe next year to assume an academic presidency.

Speaking from Italy, where he will take the presidency position, Hodges expressed his desire to engage with Italian archaeology once again.

“It’s been a wonderful time,” he said about his work as director, a position he has held since Oct. 1, 2007. “It’s a great museum that’s set on the right direction. It seems like an appropriate time to step down.”

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Vincent Price wrote in a statement that “this year’s landmark Secrets of the Silk Road exhibit stands as an eloquent testimony to Richard’s success. It drew unprecedented new audiences to the Museum, transforming their understanding of this vital part of the world.”

The exhibition, which took place earlier in the year, was almost canceled after Chinese officials demanded that the Penn Museum not show artifacts on loan from China.

However, after negotiations between American and Chinese diplomats, Beijing relented and the full exhibition took place as planned in February.

According to the museum’s Director of Development Amanda Mitchell-Boyask, the fiasco had nothing to do with Hodges’ decision to step down after the completion of his five-year term.

“We felt good about the result of the Secrets of the Silk Road exhibit,” Mitchell-Boyask said. The exhibition drew over 43,000 visitors, and the museum anticipates similar success for the 2012 display of Mayan culture, Maya 2012: Lords of Time.

“We’re all very sorry to see him go,” she added. “We knew it was a difficult decision for him to make, but in the end his passion for Europe won out.”

Hodges made enormous contributions toward the fundraising and renovation strategies of the museum.

His efforts to renovate the West Wing brought air conditioning to the museum for the first time in its 123-year history.

He has also been involved with the plans to digitize the museum’s collections and implement a long-term strategic plan for its development.

“The most valuable time I’ve had was creating a team that’s dedicated to making it the world class museum it deserves to be,” Hodges said.

As yet, it is too early to announce who will replace Hodges, Mitchell-Boyask said. The Provost will form an advisory committee in the fall to review plans for the future.

“He’s a good guy, and he’s done a lot of work to put the museum in the public eye and the community,” rising College senior Anna-Lara Cook said.

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