Rosenbaum named provost

By Andrew Alexander

Thomas Rosenbaum, vice president for Research and Argonne National Laboratory, has been appointed to succeed Richard Saller as University provost, President Robert Zimmer announced Tuesday.

Rosenbaum, the John T. Wilson Distinguished Service Professor in Physics, will serve a five-year term, beginning when Saller steps down at the end of 2006.

“Tom’s deep commitment to excellence across the University and his significant record of accomplishment in the faculty and administration make him an ideal choice for our next provost,” Zimmer wrote in a University-wide e-mail.

The new post will put two scientists—Zimmer is a mathematician—at the head of a University that has been run primarily by non-scientists in recent years. Saller is a Roman historian and his predecessor, Geoffrey Stone, was a law professor. The University has not had a scientist as president since George Beadle, who served from 1961 to 1968.

Rosenbaum’s appointment also continues the University’s tradition of looking inward for candidates; every provost since the position was created in the 1960s has come from within the University, according to Dean of the College John Boyer, who has studied U of C history.

Rosenbaum, whose research focuses on low-temperature quantum mechanics, arrived at the U of C in 1983 and was director of the Materials Research Laboratory from 1991 to 1994 and the James Franck Institute from 1995 to 2001.

Rosenbaum was not available for further comment.

Saller, the provost since 2002, announced earlier this summer that he would step down at the end of his term this year to return to teaching.

“I had always thought of this as a five-year thing,” Saller said in an interview. “I’m looking forward to reconstituting my career as a Roman historian.”

The most pressing issue currently facing the campus, he said, is the continued need to “revitalize the lab facilities in the sciences,” both with the renovation of Searle Laboratory and the Research Institutes and with the search for permanent facilities for the astrophysics and computer science departments.

“There’s certainly an intellectual thrill that goes along with being provost and seeing the kind of cutting-edge research that goes on, from the business school to the biological sciences,” he said.

But with a $1.5 billion budget and 26 direct subordinates to oversee, and at least 40 hours per week of meetings, the job is a “rat race.”

“It’s good to have someone with fresh energy,” he said.

For now, Saller is looking forward to a busy autumn quarter of reviewing tenure applications. In winter quarter, he will teach the second quarter of Ancient Mediterranean World, and in spring quarter, a Fundamentals class on Tacitus.

Boyer said that Saller “has been a real friend to the College.”

“He was very much engaged in the Urban Education Program; he’s very committed to education on the South Side,” Boyer said.

Saller, the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of History, Classical Languages and Literatures, New Testament and Early Christian Literature, and the Committee on the Ancient Mediterranean World, has taught at the U of C since 1984.

Before becoming provost, he served as dean of the Social Sciences Division from 1994 to 2002, and chairman of the history department from 1993 to 1994.