For Health Reasons, Rebecca Blank Will Be Unable to Serve as the First Woman President of Northwestern University

Last October, Northwestern University announced that Rebecca Blank had been selected to serve as the seventeenth president of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Now Dr. Blank has announced that she will be unable to serve as the first woman president of the highly ranked university due to the fact that she has been diagnosed with cancer. Morton Shapiro has agreed to stay on as president until a new successor has been chosen.

“I do not have the words to express to you how disappointed and sad I am to be telling you this,” Dr. Blank wrote in a message to the campus community. “I was excited to be joining you at Northwestern, a world-class institution that is near and dear to my heart. As heartbreaking as this is for me, I take solace in knowing Northwestern is in great hands. Although I have not been on campus full-time, I have had the opportunity to talk with many campus leaders over the past eight months. It is clear that NU has tremendous leadership, outstanding faculty and staff, and a wonderful group of students.”

Dr. Blank became chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013. She had been serving as acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Dr. Blank joined the Department of Commerce in 2009 as undersecretary for economic affairs. Previously, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institution. From 1999 to 2007, Dr. Blank was the dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. From 1989 to 1999, she served on the faculty of the economics department at Northwestern University. She has also taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. An internationally renowned economist, Dr. Blank is a well-known researcher on poverty and the low-income labor market.

Dr. Blank is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she majored in economics. She earned a Ph.D. in economics at MIT.


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