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DU Chancellor Chopp Announces Decision to Step Down

Provost Haefner Named Interim Chancellor

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In an executive session of the Board of Trustees held earlier today, University of Denver (DU) Chancellor Rebecca Chopp announced her decision to step down as Chancellor, citing serious health conditions. Shortly after the Board meeting, she shared her intentions in a letter written to the University community. Chopp plans to continue serving DU as an advisor for significant projects initiated during her tenure. The Board also honored her service to DU by designating her Chancellor Emerita when she steps down. Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeremy Haefner was unanimously selected by the Board to serve as Interim Chancellor, effective July 15, 2019.

“As some of you know, I have struggled with health issues this year,” Chopp wrote. “Unfortunately, the doctors I have been working with have diagnosed me with a complex neurological disorder that I need to attend to sooner rather than later. After many tests and consultations, I have decided I must step down as Chancellor on July 14.” She asked for privacy for herself and her husband, Fred, and their whole family so that they could come to terms with this unexpected turn of events.

“Chancellor Chopp has been DU’s greatest champion and a true force of nature since she arrived five years ago,” said Board of Trustees Chair Denise O’Leary. “Her vision for the University, her meticulous and broad consultation throughout our strategic planning process, and her genuinely collaborative and down to earth mid-western style have all made her deeply respected and highly regarded at DU and in the greater Denver region. Beyond that, our community absolutely treasures her. We are so fortunate that she will be able to continue on in service to DU and to help bring to reality some of the projects about which she has been most passionate.”

Since arriving at DU in 2014, Chopp initiated a strategic planning process that involved literally thousands of DU community members. Following a thorough consultative process, she introduced the University’s strategic plan, DU Impact 2025, which includes an emphasis on student learning and leading, diversity and inclusion, globalization, cross-discipline and cross industry collaboration, the University's connection to Denver and the region, and most recently, the University's shared sense of community and values. 

Last month DU broke ground on a new residence hall, the Dimond Family Residential Village, one of three adjacent buildings in the heart of campus that also includes a Career Achievement Center and Community Commons.

“Together this new and vibrant community gathering space will reshape the way our community comes together and will provide countless opportunities to deepen our connections to one another, and to DU,” said Chopp.  “I know that the Board of Trustees is committed to building on the success of these five years and to continue to lean into our innovation, creativity, boundless energy and practical idealism.”

In announcing Chopp’s interim successor, O’Leary said, “Provost Haefner has extensive experience in higher ed administration and is well respected by faculty, students, and staff alike. He is the perfect choice to continue the momentum DU has realized in recent years, and to further strengthen our impact in areas like research and scholarship, experiential learning, STEM, artificial intelligence and globalization.”

Haefner has served as a leader in higher education for nearly three decades before joining DU in 2018. Previously he served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs for 10 years at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He developed a stellar reputation for developing and implementing RIT’s academic direction to ensure the success and effectiveness of its academic colleges, graduate studies, institutes and three global campuses, culminating in the reclassification of the university as a doctoral research university. His list of achievements is remarkable: enlarging research capacity; elevating student access and success; expanding international education; prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusive excellence across campus, and creating an Innovative Learning Institute, resulting in a global reputation as a provider of online education.

As Chopp noted in his announcement last year, “We have found an academic leader who listens with great care, collaborates to solve issues and create new possibilities, and shares our passion to serve and build the public good.”

Chopp has a long, impressive career leading colleges and universities. Prior to coming to DU, she served as President at both Swarthmore College (2009-2014) and Colgate University (2002-2009). She also served as Provost and Executive Vice President at Emory University (1998-2001) and Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at the Candler School of Theology at Yale University (1993-97). She has also served as a professor of religion for many years.

A distinguished scholar, Chopp received her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago (1983), an M.Div. with highest honors from St. Paul School of Theology (1977) and a B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) from Kansas Wesleyan University (1974). She is a highly regarded author and lecturer both in her academic field and in reimagining the future of higher education.

She is also known as a leader and active participant in numerous professional organizations including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the American Academy of Religion. She is also a member of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Chopp is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2016 Brave Leader Award from the Colorado Business Roundtable; the Top 25 Most Powerful Women, Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Alumna of the Year from the University of Chicago. She has received honorary degrees from six colleges and universities and was a Luce Fellow at Emory University.

In her message to the DU community, Chopp wrote: “…the greatest privilege of my life has been to work with you, to affirm our great strengths and imagine forward. You are, in the words of this simple Kansas girl, “good folks.” God bless you and I look forward to working beside you during this transition and in new and fulfilling ways after July 14.”