Duke Provost Peter Lange to step down
Peter Lange is the longest-serving chief academic officer in Duke’s history, but next June, he’s stepping down from the provost post and returning to the faculty as a professor.
Lange, a political scientist interested in comparative politics and political economy, was named provost by then Duke President Nan Keohane in 1999. Next summer will mark the end of Lange’s third term.
“When I came to Duke, it was just emerging from being perhaps the leading university in the Southeast, and now we’re a global university leader, among the top,” Lange said. “It’s exciting to be at a place that’s changing and improving all the time.”
Lange also said that since he arrived at Duke 30 years ago, the campus has grown in diversity and inclusiveness.
Lange has been recognized by the university for leading Duke’s global efforts, which includes the creation of DukeEngage, a program that fully funds summer service immersion opportunities, both at home and abroad, for select undergraduate students.
“The best education includes a substantial amount of engagement with the real world in which you really test and learn about ideas that you’ve learned in the classroom,” he said.
He also has led the both praised and criticized plan to launch a university campus in Kunshan, China. Duke Kunshan University is expected to open for classes starting in fall of 2014, after construction quality concerns and delays.
Duke faculty members have raised concerns about the Kunshan project that vary from operating an academic institution in a communist nation to ensuring that Kunshan laborers working on the project are being paid proper wages overseas.
Lange, who attended a Duke University Academic Council meeting in February to talk with faculty about the project, said Duke is monitoring contractor conditions and has entered into this agreement with an understanding that Duke will maintain its academic freedom.
He told The Herald-Sun that one of the project hurdles has been translating plans for the university across two cultures that have political, administrative and social differences.
“That’s been one of the most challenging (projects) but one of the highlights of the last three or four years,” Lange said.
More than a decade ago, Lange chaired the committee that produced the proposal for Curriculum 2000, which revised the curriculum for Duke Arts and Sciences undergraduates.
When it comes to employee numbers, nearly two-thirds of current faculty members were appointed during his tenure, as were all current deans, according to Duke.
John Burness, a visiting professor of the practice in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said Lange is a giant when it comes to thinking strategically, broadly and through gathering support for his ideas.
“He has played a pivotal role in selection of the deans, and the real work at a university is done within the colleges, the schools, so you have to have strong leadership there,” Burness said. “In general, he has done a strong job in picking good, solid deans that reach across their own fields.”
Lange also was part of the administration that responded to the Duke lacrosse case, in which Duke men’s lacrosse players were falsely accused of raping a stripper, Crystal Mangum, at a team party in 2006.
More than a week after the supposed attack, Lange responded to protesters at his home across from East Campus.
“There’s no way to anticipate (what we can do) before we know the facts,” Lange had said to protesters chanting outside of his home March 26, 2006. “Are you asking Duke to override the Fifth Amendment (guaranteeing the right against self-incrimination)?”
Duke University and 38 members of its 2005-06 men’s lacrosse team had settled a lawsuit in February this year out of court. The settlement ended all claims by the indicted and then exonerated players against Duke University and campus officials, which included Lange.
Lange said he would not comment Wednesday on how the administration handled the lacrosse case.
During his years as provost, Lange also helped lead the charge to include more online materials in the classroom. He said this move toward more online instruction isn’t meant to “fundamentally transform what Duke represents,” but to introduce new teaching methods.
He played a key role in the Campaign for Duke, the Financial Aid Initiative and the current Duke Forward fundraising drive, and Lange also guided the university through two five-year strategic plans, “Making a Difference” in 2006 and “Building on Excellence” in 2001, which led to the creation of Duke’s signature interdisciplinary institutes, according to the university.
He also oversaw campus expansion planning that added new academic, student life, library and arts facilities.
“Peter Lange has made his mark on Duke University as have few others,” said Duke President Richard Brodhead in a statement. “He has helped launch some of Duke’s most distinctive academic programs and has led the transformation of the student experience at Duke as well, with a strong commitment to access, diversity and excellence. Through it all, Peter has brought wisdom, integrity and innovation to the counsels of this university.”
During his Duke career, Lange served as special assistant to the provost for international affairs, as vice provost for academic and international affairs and as a professor in Duke’s department of political science. He chaired the political science department from 1996 to 1999.
Michael Munger, a political science professor who chaired the political science department after Lange, said in an email that Lange always “took interest before a choice was made, and took responsibility afterwards.”
“This is all too rare in academic administrators, who see themselves as moving around pieces on a chess board,” Munger said. “As provost, Dr. Lange made it clear that he expected people to care as much about excellence, and about getting better, as he did.
“There is no way you can fake that. You have to live it. I'm sure sometimes people got tired of Dr. Lange being so much in their face, following up on things that turned out badly. But surely that's better than an aloof and unseen leader who just issues edicts and then blames others if things don't work out.”
Munger added that even though people have criticized the Kunshan University project and the move toward online education, criticism comes with taking risks.
“Ten years from now, when Duke is a player in education in China and a leading force in online education, people will conveniently forget their initial skepticism,” he said. “I think Dr. Lange will be proven consistently right in the bets he has made, though in some cases he may not seem right just yet.”
Lange will now serve as the Thomas A. Langford University Professor at Duke. According to Lange’s curriculum vitae, he arrived at Duke in 1981 from an associate professor of government position at Harvard.
Brodhead has named a committee to search for Lange’s successor, according to the university.
The committee will be chaired by George Truskey, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Biomedical Engineering and senior associate dean for research in the Pratt School. Other committee members include faculty members Ellen Davis, the Amos Ragan Kearns Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at the Divinity School; Katherine Franz, associate professor of chemistry; professor Michael Platt, director of both the Duke Institute for Brain Science and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience; Richard Schmalbeck, the Simpson Thacher & Bartlett Professor of Law; sociology professor Lynn Smith-Lovin; and Maurice Wallace, associate professor of English and African and African American Studies.
Also on the committee are Duke senior Stefani Jones, president of Duke Student Government, and Amol Yadav, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council; trustees Frank Emory and Betsy Holden; and Benjamin Reese, vice president of the Office for Institutional Equity.