Penn chooses Virginia’s Elizabeth Magill as president

Provost at Virginia expected to take office in July, replacing Gutmann after high-profile 18-year tenure

January 13, 2022
Source: University of Virginia
Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill, the provost of the University of Virginia, has been nominated by the trustees of the University of Pennsylvania to serve as its new president, replacing Amy Gutmann.

Professor Magill, a former dean of law at Stanford University, would assume the Ivy League campus’ presidency in July if Penn’s trustees, as expected in March, approve the nomination from their executive committee.

Penn dates to 1740, and Professor Gutmann has been leading it since 2004, as just the eighth president since the office was created in 1930. A nationally prominent activist leader, Professor Gutmann announced her departure plans last year as US president Joe Biden chose her to serve as US ambassador to Germany.

Professor Magill was the first female provost at Virginia, where she earned her law degree after her bachelor’s degree in history at Yale University. Her career highlights including clerking for the late US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

At Stanford, Professor Magill established law education programmes that helped real-life clients with policy challenges, and provided students with global perspectives through classes in China, India, Europe and Latin America.

“I am humbled and honoured by the opportunity” to lead Penn, she said in the university’s announcement of her selection. “From its founding, Penn set its sights on making a difference, and 282 years later the Penn community continues to change the world every day.”

Professor Gutmann, an accomplished political scientist, has been a high-profile and at times controversial leader. Penn announced Professor Magill’s selection shortly after this week’s vote by the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee to endorse Professor Gutmann’s nomination for the ambassador post in Germany. In that, she faced some Republican opposition, centred largely on concerns over Chinese financial contributions to Penn during her presidency. The full Democrat-led Senate is expected to approve her appointment to Berlin.

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