Joseph Cooper, provost at the Johns Hopkins University, said yesterday that he will resign his post Jan. 1 to return to teaching and research, further shaking up the school's central administration.
"It's a time of transition," Dr. Cooper said. "It's an appropriate time to leave." Dr. Cooper, a political scientist, will remain at Hopkins but will take a year's sabbatical before entering the classroom.
Dr. Cooper's retirement will mean that Hopkins is expected to have new faces next summer in the university's top three spots: chairman of the board of trustees, president and provost. The provost, as chief academic officer, is considered the president's second-in-command.
Interim President Daniel Nathans tapped Stephen Knapp, Hopkins' dean of arts and sciences, to become interim provost. Dr. Knapp will hold both positions and becomes a leading candidate to replace Dr. Cooper once a president takes office. A search committee is whittling down candidates for the presidency to finalists.
Faculty members and campus officials praised Dr. Cooper yesterday for his work in long-range planning and guiding searches for several deans and the directors of the Peabody Institute, the library, and the university press.
Dr. Cooper left Rice University in 1991 after 24 years on the Houston campus to come to Baltimore. In speaking about his more than four years on campus, Dr. Cooper said he took particular pleasure in cultivating research projects by faculty members and by students. But Dr. Cooper also said the historic strength of deans at Hopkins, and the budget role played by the university's nonacademic officers, hampered his ability to be a strong campus leader.
"It's a provostship that doesn't have the same dimensions of authority that other provosts have," Dr. Cooper said. "My field of study is Congress, and it reminds me of a [House] speaker dealing with a lot of very powerful committee chairmen who need to be persuaded of what's in their best interest."
"It's very largely a job of persuasion and leadership by persuasion. I wouldn't say that's frustrating, but it is challenging."
Trustee Chairman-elect Michael R. Bloomberg, a major benefactor of the university, will replace board Chairman Morris W. Offit next summer. Mr. Bloomberg is a trustee vice chairman and a frequent presence on campus, so he is familiar with the issues facing Hopkins. Yet in an interview with Sun editors this week, Mr. Bloomberg said he was upset with the timing of former President William C. Richardson's resignation in June.
"The last thing a new chair of a board wants is a new president," Mr. Bloomberg said.
Mr. Bloomberg did say, however, that trustees would be interested in Dr. Nathans as a permanent president if he wanted the job. Despite rave reviews from alumni, professors and trustees, Dr. Nathans yesterday reiterated that he is not a candidate for the permanent position.
Dr. Knapp, considered a rising star by many faculty members, is a recent arrival here. He came to Hopkins last year from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was an English professor.
"With Dean Knapp, we've got a good guy," said W. Stephen Wilson, chairman of the mathematics department. "If this keeps him on campus longer, that's better for us."