Boyer to Conclude Deanship in 2023 After Serving 30 Years

John Boyer, the longest-serving College dean in University history, will serve as senior advisor to the president after 2023 and continue to teach in the College.


By Erin Choi

John Boyer will conclude his tenure as Dean of the College after the 2022–23 academic year, according to an email he sent on Monday to undergraduate students. He will transition to serving as the senior adviser to the president on July 1, 2023.

The new role, which was offered to Boyer by President Paul Alivisatos, entails responsibilities such as “international development, global education, and the support of programs involving public discourse, academic freedom, and the history of higher education.”

Alivisatos confirmed the transition in a follow-up email to the University community on Monday, adding that Boyer will continue to teach in the College.

Alivisatos also wrote that the president and provost will soon begin the formal selection process for the next dean by assembling a faculty advisory committee.

Boyer served as Dean of the College under five University presidents: Hanna Holborn Gray, Hugo Sonnenschein, Don Randel, Robert Zimmer, and Alivisatos. He was first appointed as dean in 1992 by Gray and was reappointed by Zimmer for a sixth five-year term in 2017. His tenure is the longest anyone has served in this role; no other College dean has served for more than 10 years.

Boyer is also the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of History; he joined the University faculty upon receiving his Ph.D. from the University in 1975 and regularly teaches civilization courses in the College’s Core Curriculum.

In his email, Alivisatos credited Boyer with raising more than $1.3 billion in funding “to further student access, financial aid, career programs and the vibrancy of campus.”

Under Boyer’s deanship, enrollment in the College doubled from around 3,500 to more than 7,500 students, and the acceptance rate decreased from 77 percent to 6 percent. In this period, the University built three new residence halls—Renee Granville-Grossman, Campus North, and Woodlawn Residential Commons—and established the Odyssey Scholarship Program, the College’s flagship financial aid initiative that has supported more than 5,000 students since its inception in 2007.

Near the start of his tenure, Boyer worked with Sonnenschein, president from 1993 to 2000, to increase undergraduate applications, diversity, and enrollment. Some of these efforts were controversial, as many argued that those changes strayed from the University’s defining “history and character.” In 1998, the College reduced its Core Curriculum requirements from about one-half to one-third of the total undergraduate coursework. In 2008, UChicago started to accept the Common Application—the most widely used undergraduate application program—instead of its distinct Uncommon Application.

Throughout his tenure, Boyer also oversaw the expansion of the College’s study abroad opportunities, including the Civilization Abroad program and the University Center in Paris, as well as other changes in the undergraduate curriculum, including new majors in molecular engineering, data science, creative writing, and media arts and design.

Boyer’s deanship also saw the expansion of the College’s career advancement services, most notably the Jeff Metcalf Internship Program, an internship base established by alumni in 1997. The program, which began with eight internships, now includes more than 4,000.

In his announcement, Boyer noted that through the end of his tenure and beyond, the College will continue to give “special attention” to the Odyssey Scholarship Program. “Chicago has always been a fiercely merit-based place, devoted to providing crucial life chances for individual achievement, and it must continue to offer students from all financial, social, and cultural backgrounds the chance to join this extraordinary community,” Boyer wrote.

According to Alivisatos’s email, the University will plan and announce “events to honor John’s exceptional contributions” later this year. A University spokesperson also said that further details about Boyer’s teaching plans will be announced soon.