Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dennis Assanis named next UD president

Dennis Assanis, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University, will serve as the next University of Delaware president.

All present members of UD’s Board of Trustees voted to confirm Assanis Wednesday. He will officially take over July 1, 2016. 

UD College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment dean Nancy Targett will continue to serve as acting president until then.

"UD is an amazing institution known for the quality of its students and the achievements of its faculty and staff," said Assanis. "Together, I know we can build on this rich legacy."

Originally from Greece, Assanis holds several advanced degrees in marine engineering – four from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

He says he’s committed to promoting diversity – something acting president Targett says is her number one priority.

“From gender, race, ethnicity, religion, to socio-economic background, to sexual orientation, intellectual differences, personal preferences, that’s what diversity is all about and that’s what makes the academic world move. That’s what builds a great institution,” Assanis said.

Right now, there’s a task force gathering recommendations on boosting inclusiveness to take to the Board of Trustees in January. UD has slowly been improving its racial makeup in recent years, but is still overwhelmingly white.

Assanis also says he wants to keep the cost of tuition down – especially for Delawareans – noting that the university will have to be more entrepreneurial, like developing more marketable patents while conducting research.

“I’m going to be extremely dedicated to generating those resources we need to basically fuel our dreams and aspirations, including the philanthropic support. That’s going to be a major job.”

The presidential search committee unanimously chose him from more than 100 people that applied or were nominated for the position. Committee members eventually interviewed 11 candidates and narrowed down the pool to four – three of whom participated in a second round of interviews.

UD completely closed the search process and the 15-member group was mostly made up of business leaders. Four faculty members and one undergraduate student were sprinkled in among them.

Committee co-chair Don Puglisi says that was was necessary, despite a strong outcry from faculty members.

“We believe that the very best candidates want a confidential search and if it weren’t a confidential search then certain candidates who we think are very attractive candidates would not want to be, have their name in contention,” Puglisi said.

The university’s faculty senate overwhelmingly voted against the secret search in an October meeting, but the Board of Trustees has the sole power to hire a new president.

Professors say the limited representation they had on the search committee doesn’t instill trust, having not had the chance to meet with any candidates on their vision for the nearly 275-year-old school.

Assanis says he'll build that trust, " meeting people, by discussing the issues that they face, by forming partnerships, by generating intellectual excitement and by working with them to build a stronger campus."

UD also doesn’t fully fall under Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act, as much of their funding comes from private sources and tuition, though taxpayers contributed $118.6 million this fiscal year.

Before joining Stony Brook University as an administrator, Assanis was a well-decorated professor at University of Michigan for 17 years, working as the director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Clean Vehicles. 

Former president Patrick Harker left the job in June to serve as the president and CEO of the Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Related Content