In a message sent to the university community, Patrick Harker said he will step down as president of the University of Delaware this summer.
The announcement was made Monday morning. Harker will leave his post at UD to become president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, effective July 1.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of this University. Working with our motivated students, illustrious faculty and dedicated staff has been inspiring, invigorating and unforgettable,” Harker said.
University Spokeswoman Andrea Boyle said plans to search for Harker’s successor will be announced soon, with Harker’s full cooperation.
“Over the next four months, I will work closely with our Board of Trustees and our dedicated administrative team to ensure smooth transition in leadership,” said Harker, who while excited about his new role said he will miss working on UD’s campus with “the best students and the most dedicated faculty and staff in American higher education.”
Over the past year, Harker has come under fire after UD initially greenlit a controversial data center on its STAR campus. The university ultimately terminated the project last summer.
More recently, state lawmakers grilled Harker about criticism from the Delaware NAACP that UD not only lacked diversity among its student body, but that the university’s attempts to enroll more minorities resulted in “little or no progress.”
The 56-year-old is a member of the Philadelphia Fed’s board of directors and he will oversee 900 employees in his new role. He succeeds Charles I. Plosser, who retired effective March 1.
“[Harker’s] deep roots in the region, his distinguished career in academia, his drive for innovation, and his passion to make our region an economic engine for the future truly impressed our board,” said James Nevels, chairman of the Philadelphia Fed’s board.
Before joining UD in July 2007, Harker served as dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Governor Jack Markell thanked Harker for his service in a media statement. He highlighted the president’s embrace of STEM education as evidenced by the university’s new cybersecurity initiative, its STAR campus for science, technology, and advanced research, and its Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering lab.
“President Harker’s tenure has been marked by progress in areas most important to building a stronger economy and workforce,” Markell said in the statement.
Senator Tom Carper also praised Harker’s “keen eye for economic innovation” in a press release, pointing again to the STAR campus.
Contuining on an economic thread, Harker reacently urged higher education to reconsider its “value proposition” in an op-ed written for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Those remarks triggered considerable blowback from university professors, in particular, the Delaware chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which called Harker’s column “an affront to the mission of university education and to core values of academic life.”
The Delaware AAUP wished Harker well on Monday, though. The organization’s Executive Council issued a statement saying that although it had “differences” with Harker, “he has made many important contributions to the University of Delaware during his tenure as president.”