Robert Barchi will officially assume office on February 1, replacing former Provost Stanley Chodorow. It's official. More than 13 months after former Provost Stanley Chodorow resigned as Penn's top academic official, University President Judith Rodin finally named a permanent replacement yesterday by selecting Neurology and Neuroscience Department Chairperson Robert Barchi to fill the long-vacant post. Barchi, 52, will officially take office on February 1, 1999. Interim Provost Michael Wachter, who has been serving in the position since January 1 of this year, will step down at the end of the month to return to teaching and research as a faculty member in Penn's Law School. Word of Barchi's imminent appointment leaked out Wednesday, with several knowledgeable sources close to the student- and faculty-composed provost search committee confirming to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the noted physician and academic would be named to the high-ranking post. Though the committee was established in January, Barchi said yesterday that he only became a candidate in late October, nine months after the committee first convened. Yesterday, Rodin was effusive in her praise of Barchi, who will serve as the third provost of her approximately 5 1/2 years in office. "Dr. Barchi is an esteemed scientist and scholar and will serve well as the academic leader of the faculty," she said. "He's a great listener [and] really a very deep and strong person." After graduating from Georgetown University with simultaneous bachelor's and master's degrees in 1968, Barchi earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Penn in 1972 and graduated from the Medical School a year later. He joined the Neurology Department faculty in 1974 with secondary appointments in Biochemistry and Biophysics and has since developed a reputation among the school's faculty for being a strong-willed, dynamic leader with well-honed organizational skills. At a meeting with members of the DP's editorial board yesterday, Barchi stressed his excitement at being named to the post. "I see a series of incredible opportunities to make this place at the cutting edge of where education is going," he said. Barchi said that he is not entering the provost's spacious first-floor College Hall offices with any specific agenda items in mind, preferring instead to consult with members of the University community to determine what is important to them. "I'm just coming into a job and one of the first things I'm going to do is consult with [students], consult with the faculty, consult with the deans and arrange for myself what I think my agenda is going to be and how I'm going to prioritize it," he said. "I think it would be pretty immature to lay down an agenda right now without having done that." At the same time, though, Barchi indicated that cross-school, dual-degree and interdisciplinary programs -- such as the University's new program in cognitive neuroscience, for which he chairs Rodin's special task force -- would figure significantly into his academic plans. Barchi -- who has spent his entire Penn career in the Medical School faculty -- said that one of his priorities during the transition would be to familiarize himself with each of the University's 12 schools. "I certainly have a big learning curve, like anyone would in this job, with the specific problems of each school," he said. "But I'm not starting from ground zero." Though Barchi has only limited experience with undergraduate education, such as his work on the College of Arts and Sciences' interdisciplinary Biological Basis of Behavior major, Rodin insisted that his current graduate-education focus would not be a liability. She compared him to former provosts Jonathan Rhoads, who served from 1955 to 1959, and Eliot Stellar, who was in office from 1973 until 1978, both of whom succeeded in jumping from Med School posts to oversight of all of the University's schools. "They're two of Penn's most beloved faculty members and provosts," Rodin said. "I see Bob Barchi following in that tradition." In fact, Barchi cited Stellar and the two provosts that succeeded him -- Vartan Gregorian and Thomas Ehrlich -- as the models after which he hopes to base his own tenure as provost. "Eliot [Stellar] had a remarkable ability to listen, the wisdom to generate ideas that drew on the conclusions of others and to have them come along with that idea as if it were their very own," he said. "In many ways he was like a father figure to me and if I could be even a quarter of what he was, that would in many ways for me be an achievement." And many of his colleagues said they believe Barchi will flourish in his new post. "He's highly respected by those around him for his intelligence and his energy," Neuroscience Professor John Lindstrom said. "He's quite well-liked by the people in the department."Comments powered by Disqus
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