Etchemendy balances additional duties

March 14, 2012, 2:48 a.m.

University Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 told The Daily that filling in for President John Hennessy has required minimal adjustment over the past few weeks.


Etchemendy has been serving as acting president – in addition to his role as provost – since Feb. 15 when Hennessy officially began his sabbatical. Hennessy announced he would be taking a sabbatical last September and plans to return to the University in June for Commencement Weekend.


Etchemendy balances additional duties
University Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ‘82 has been serving as Acting President since Feb. 15, when President John Hennessy began his sabbatical. Hennessy will return for Commencement weekend. (LINDA A. CICERO/Stanford News Service)

Etchemendy largely credited the ease of slipping into this temporary role to his prior experience as acting president of the University while Hennessy travels.


“I’ve been acting president many, many times,” Etchemendy said. “The difference with this is it’s for a much more extended period of time.”


Etchemendy also highlighted the large overlap between the job of the University provost and the job of the president as a factor contributing to the smooth transition.


“The important thing to understand is that John Hennessy and I work very, very closely together and have worked closely together for almost 12 years,” he said. “Almost everything that I do, any major decision made by either of us, we talk to the other. So in that sense, I’m quite familiar with what the president does just as the president is quite familiar with what I do.”


Etchemendy added that the standard replacement when a University president goes on sabbatical is often the provost – or in some cases, a former president.


On a day-to-day level, the additional post has meant that Etchemendy must now meet both with the people who report to the provost as well as those who report to the president, he said. This has packed his schedule with more meetings than usual.


Etchemendy said that Hennessy’s absence has also altered the office dynamic.


“The way we work, John Hennessy and I, we generally see each other and talk to each other two or three times a day about issues that have come up because, as I say, we work very closely together,” Etchemendy said. “With the president away, that doesn’t happen.”


To help fill his shoes as provost while he is serving as acting president, Etchemendy has asked Robert D. Simoni, the Donald Kennedy chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences and professor of biology, to assist with reading all of the faculty promotion and reappointment files that are processed by the provost.


“[Simoni] has extensive experience as a member of the Advisory Board,” Etchemendy said, referring to the committee of faculty that advises on appointments and promotions. “He’s been on the advisory board for many, many years. He’s been the chair of the advisory board for many years, and so is extremely knowledgeable.”


While Hennessy is on sabbatical, the University will continue its search for a new dean of the School of Medicine and a new director of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, as well as Stanford’s foray into the world of online education, according to Etchemendy, who said that Hennessy’s sabbatical will not effect those initiatives.


“Things do come up out of the blue and you have to make a decision day to day on lots of different things,” Etchemendy said. “But in terms of the major overall projects, there are no projects that weren’t in process before President Hennessy went on sabbatical and no projects that we didn’t think about in advance.”


“I can still always ask him questions if I feel that a decision shouldn’t be made without his input,” he added. “It’s not as if he’s dropped off the face of the earth.”

Alice Phillips '15 is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as the paper's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, a News Desk Editor and a News Staff Writer. Alice is a biology major from Los Angeles, California.

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