Princeton University Names 20th President


Princeton University Provost Christopher L. Eisgruber has been named the 20th president of the University, school officials announced at a 12:30 p.m. press conference today at Nassau Hall.

Eisgruber was appointed at a special meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees on the unanimous recommendation of a 17-member search committee following a six-month search. The search committee included nine trustees, four faculty members, three students, and a member of the staff. The committee was chaired by Kathryn Hall, the chair of the board.

“Chris Eisgruber has all of the qualities we were looking for in Princeton’s next president,” Hall said. “He has keen intelligence and excellent judgment, he cares passionately about teaching and research of the highest quality, he is deeply committed to principles of excellence, equity and integrity, and he is devoted to Princeton.”

Eisgruber, a Princeton alumnus who helped guide the University through the financial crisis, has served as provost since 2004. He is also the Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values. From 2001 to 2004, he served as director of Princeton’s Program in Law and Public Affairs.

Many University faculty and staff members were rooting for Eisgruber to become the next president because he is considered to be a good listener who is fair and open-minded.

“He has played a central role in many of the key initiatives of recent years, some of which he now will be responsible for bringing to fruition,” Hall said. “He is well prepared to provide strong leadership as Princeton makes important decisions in areas ranging from online learning to globalization to increasing the diversity of our campus community, as well as in addressing challenges and pursuing opportunities that we cannot foresee. As valuable as this preparation is, the principal reason we selected Chris was because of the personal qualities that make us confident that he will lead Princeton with vision, imagination, courage, and conviction. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”

A renowned constitutional scholar, Eisgruber, 51, is the author of several publications, including The Next Justice:  Repairing the Supreme Court Appointments Process and Constitutional Self-Government. He is  the co-author, with Lawrence G. Sager, of Religious Freedom and the Constitution He has published numerous articles on constitutional law, religious freedom, and jurisprudence.

Before joining the Princeton faculty in 2001, Eisgruber clerked for Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and for Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court, and then served for eleven years on the faculty of the New York University School of Law. He earned his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in physics from Princeton in 1983. He earned a a master’s degree in politics from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School. He is a member of the American Law Institute.

“It is a great joy for me to accept this appointment,” Eisgruber said, thanking the Trustees and search committee for their confidence in him.  “I also want to thank President Tilghman for her extraordinary leadership, which has put us in a stronger position than any point in our history. The University has shaped my life ever since I set foot on the campus 34 years ago. During my time as a student, and alumnus, and a faculty member I’ve had a heartfelt appreciation for Princeton’s special strengths.”

Eisgruber, who was considered a frontrunner for the job over the last several months, always downplayed his chances of being selected, saying  he did not consider himself a contender and wanted to return to teaching. He learned he was selected about a week ago, he said.

He praised the school’s close-knit alumni community, and its strengths as both a great research university and a top liberal arts college. “The two are complementary parts of a single ideal,” he said. He also highlighted challenges Princeton and other academic institutions face in the “the next chapter”, such as the influence of the Internet and technology on teaching. He also stressed the importance of ensuring that a Princeton education is accessible to the greatest number of people possible regardless of socioeconomic  status.

His appointment is effective July 1. Current President Shirley M. Tilghman last fall announced her intention to step down at the end of this academic year after completing 12 years in office. She was elected Princeton’s 19th president on May 5 of 2001.

During a question and answer session with the press today, Tilghman said Eisgruber’s leadership during the depth of the recession in 2008 and 2009 was critical to the University successfully navigating those years.

“One aspect of his leadership was the transparency with which he went about explaining to the campus what the circumstances were, what we needed to do, and why,” Tilghman said. “That instinct to be inclusive, to treat everyone like an adult, then to elicit the support of everyone on campus to get through it — that instinct for transparency was one of the most impressive things during the depth of the recession.”

“We have in Chris the leader we need for the next decade,” Tilghman said. “I don’t think we could be in better hands.”

Eisgruber’s wife, Lori A. Martin, is a securities litigator with the firm of WilmerHale, and they have a 14-year-old son, Danny. Eisgruber said he hopes to strengthen town and gown relationships. He said he already knows Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, whose husband is a University employee, because their children were in nursery school together.

Eisgruber and Christie after the press conference.
Eisgruber and Christie after the press conference.

“I hope we can find ways to strengthen civic partnerships with Princeton and surrounding communities , he said. ” I moved to Princeton before I joined the faculty, and I’m proud to call Princeton home.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who sits on the University’s Board of Trustees and has a son who is a freshman at the school, attended the meeting and press conference today and said he is looking forward to working with Eisgruber.

“Because he has the experience he does here, he can get down to work right away and focus his time on faculty, supporters, and a vision for what’s next,” Christie said.

Presidential search committee vice chair Brent Henry (l), Shirley Tilghman, Chris Eisgruber, and search committee chair Kathryn Hall (r) share a laugh at the press conference.
Presidential search committee vice chair Brent Henry (l), Shirley Tilghman, Chris Eisgruber, and search committee chair Kathryn Hall (r) share a laugh at the press conference.