Dr. William R. Brody, who in 11 years as president of the Johns Hopkins University tripled the school's endowment and expanded its global reach, will step down at year's end, he told the board of trustees yesterday.
Brody, the university's leader since 1996, will move from his campus home to a Federal Hill rowhouse, retiring in a city whose landscape Hopkins has helped to shape under his leadership, including a revitalized Charles Village and the $800 million redevelopment that is transforming a large swath of East Baltimore.
A prolific fundraiser, an engineer, a radiologist, recreational aircraft pilot, classical pianist, lecturer and businessman, Brody seems to be expert in many of the myriad disciplines for which Hopkins is known.
After 11 busy years managing the city's biggest private employer and the state's most prestigious university, Brody, 64, said he wants the freedom to let his attention wander for a change.
"This is by far the best job in America as far as I'm concerned, and certainly the most interesting and rewarding thing I've ever done," he said. "I liken myself to a bee going from flower to flower. Except if I land on one that has particularly good nectar, I can't stay and focus on a deep dive."
He said he has no immediate plans, other than to write a book or two and brush up on his piano playing.
Brody is timing his retirement to coincide with the end of an eight-year, $3.2 billion capital campaign. Hopkins' endowment has grown from nearly $983 million when Brody became president to about $2.8 billion at the end of the 2007 fiscal year, officials said.
Hopkins' buildings and schools are dotted with names of multimillion-dollar donors he has courted: the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Berman Institute of Bioethics.
Raising billions of dollars - increasingly a chief occupation of American college presidents - is taxing, Brody said.
'Timing is right'
"It seemed like I was not going to have the energy to do another campaign," Brody said. "The timing is right. ... The university is firing on all cylinders, so I think it's a good time to leave."
The retirement will present a rarity, an open seat at the highest echelons of the nation's academic leadership.
Pamela P. Flaherty, chairwoman of Hopkins' board of trustees, said a national search for Brody's replacement will begin soon. University officials want to select a new president by the time Brody steps down Dec. 31.
The search will be "daunting," Flaherty said yesterday, listing the job description: "leading a major university, an academic health center ... from the Applied Physics Laboratory to the humanities to music to international affairs to public health, the School of Medicine."
Brody's resume seemed tailor-made for Hopkins.
Born in Stockton, Calif., he studied electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and a medical degree at Stanford University.
From 1977 to 1986, he was a professor of radiology and electrical engineering at Stanford.
Brody's first stint at Hopkins was from 1987 to 1994, when he held simultaneous faculty positions in radiology, biomedical engineering, and electrical and computer engineering. He was also the hospital's chief radiologist.
After two years as a provost at the University of Minnesota, Brody returned to Hopkins as its 13th president on Sept. 1, 1996.
Brody's tenure has been relatively smooth, though it was also marked by tragedy.
In 2001, federal regulators suspended human medical research at Hopkins for three days after the death of a patient in an asthma study.
In 2004 and 2005, two undergraduates were killed by intruders in their off-campus homes. Hopkins has boosted its security efforts in Charles Village, and university officials say crime on and off campus has decreased.
The deaths of Christopher B. Elser and Linda Trinh were Brody's "lowest moment."
"I'll forever remember those two students," he said, his lower lip quivering. "I wish that I could have done something to prevent those. ... I'll probably ask myself that a lot."
But his tenure has been marked with more high points than low points. He has overseen a significant expansion of the university's global health efforts and established the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in China. He recently learned Chinese so that he could give a speech there.
"Henry Kissinger, a very close friend of mine, was there," said New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Hopkins alumnus and major donor. "He said it was amazing."
Brody and his wife, Wendy, resumed the tradition of Hopkins presidents living on campus. In an effort to be part of campus life, they welcomed students by riding around the freshman dorms on in-line skates or scooters. In 2003, they traded up to Segway Personal Transporters.
Many students fondly recalled dinners with the Brodys at their on-campus residence.
Brody "has inspired an atmosphere around campus that we are a world-renowned institution," Nathan Levin, president of the Class of 2010, said in an e-mail. "In turn, this has helped to foster an increasing sense of campus spirit and pride in the university. We still have work to do, though, and I only hope that the next president is able to pick up where President Brody has left off."
Colleagues across the country paid tribute to Brody yesterday.
"I think it's just an enormous loss for higher education in the state, the nation and, quite frankly, globally," said University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan. "He's a very important force in higher education and leaves a legacy of impressive accomplishment."
'A perfect fit'
Yale University President Richard C. Levin, a fellow admirer of Chinese culture, called Brody "one of the outstanding university presidents in the nation. ... Bill is a perfect fit for Hopkins, being a medical person, an engineer and with business experience, I don't think you're likely to find someone with all those attributes."
Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, credited Brody with making Hopkins "a more academically eminent" institution.
"His breadth of strategic vision and his real palpable humanity distinguishes him among leaders, not just among university presidents but among leaders."
April 8, 1996: William R. Brody named Johns Hopkins' 13th president.
July 17, 2000: Hopkins concludes a six-year, $1.52 billion capital campaign that exceeded the university's goals.
July 19, 2001: Federal regulators suspend all human medical research at Hopkins after the death of a patient in an asthma study. After agreeing to a series of reviews, the university's privileges are restored three days later.
April 16, 2002: City, state and university officials announce key agreements that pave the way for the creation of the East Baltimore biotech park.
Jan. 31, 2005: After two students are killed in off-campus apartments in less than a year, university announces a $2 million plan to increase security.
Oct. 29, 2006: Hopkins expands its fundraising goal to $3.2 billion by the end of 2008.