Michael Schill was inaugurated Friday morning as Northwestern’s 17th president.
The New York native took office in September 2022, just two months after Rebecca Blank stepped down as president-elect after being diagnosed with cancer. White deceased in February.
“It was heartbreaking for him to step down from his position last summer…the NU community continues to mourn his loss,” Board Chairman Peter Barris said at the inauguration.
Barris said when searching for a president, it was “imperative” for the presidential search committee to find someone who understood the university’s position and was focused on opportunities for students.
Schill – who was previously president of the University of Oregon and dean of the University of Chicago Law School — fit those criteria, Barris said.
“I was struck by his deep commitment to research and his academic vigor, his focus on student access and success, and his focus on the values of diversity, equity and inclusion through his academic work. and administrative,” Barris said.
In his inaugural address, Schill highlighted areas where he believed the University would focus its creative and interdisciplinary efforts.
First, Schill said NU will renew its commitment to leading bioscience, positioning the University to create new treatments, cures and healthcare delivery systems. Recently, the University was chosen to co-lead the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s biomedical research center in Chicago.
NU will also focus on decarbonization, renewable energy and sustainability.
“Little else matters if we can’t secure a future for our students,” Schill said.
Schill stressed the importance of looking to the future of NU and creating positive change.
While the founders and past presidents created the university’s faculty and as students know it today, they were also complicated and controversial people, Schill said.
“These men – and they were all men – envisioned a university dedicated in perpetuity to the service of the Methodist Church,” Schill said. “Needless to say, the University and the world they inhabited are barely recognizable to us today.”
In recognition of NU’s past and the land it sits on, Schill accepted a reciprocal gift from SESP Professor Megan Bang, director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research.
Bang said the gift represents the hope she and others have that Schill will show his commitment to indigenous culture as president.
“Northwestern is grooming some of the nation’s most promising young Indigenous leaders,” Bang said. “Your leadership in our school matters.”
Looking to the future, Schill said he can’t remember a time when academia was under the microscope “so intensely”.
Many states, Schill said, are considering legislation that would undermine the foundation of American universities.
“Legislative efforts to limit what we do in the classroom run counter to the fearless pursuit of knowledge, as well as the passing of that knowledge to the next generation,” Schill said.
Despite these efforts, Schill said he is committed to ensuring that NU remains a diverse place where all individuals have the opportunity to obtain a “world-class” education.
The newly inaugurated president thanked NU’s last two presidents for “drastically” changing the trajectory of NU.
“We have become one of the largest research universities in the world,” Schill said. “Most importantly, NU is a university that is ready and willing to weather the headwinds rocking higher education.”
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— Rebecca Blank, former North West president-elect, dies at 67
— Michael Schill named next president of Northwestern
— Rebecca Blank steps down as president-elect after cancer diagnosis, Morton Schapiro remains
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