Yale Provost Returning to Cambridge Leaves Distinguished Record

President Richard C. Levin today thanked Provost Alison Richard for her three decades of service to Yale and congratulated her on being proposed as the next Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University.

“In nearly nine years as Provost, Alison has inspired deans, faculty, and administrators by her unwavering commitment to excellence and her unfailing good judgment,” Levin said. “She listens; she cares; she reflects, and she acts with a decisiveness based on both reason and compassion. She has become a master of finances, but at the core she is a leader of people. Yale is profoundly grateful for her thirty years of service, and Cambridge is fortunate beyond measure.”

Richard, who is expected to take up her new position as Cambridge’s principal academic and administrative officer next fall, will end her tenure as provost January 1, 2003. A native of England and a graduate of Cambridge, Richard has been a member of Yale’s faculty since 1972.

“My education at Cambridge prepared me, in many ways, for my life,” Richard said. “I am honored and excited by the prospect of returning to Cambridge with a chance to offer something in return. It is a truly great university. Indeed, were that not so, it would be hard to imagine leaving Yale, where I have so many cherished friendships with colleagues built up over the last thirty years.”

Biography of Alison Richard

Born in Kent, England, Alison Richard studied anthropology at Cambridge University and received her doctorate from London University. After joining the Yale faculty in 1972, she was named professor of anthropology in 1986, and in 1990 received a joint appointment as professor of environmental studies in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Richard served as chair of the Anthropology Department at Yale from 1986 to 1991.

From 1991 to 1994, she was the director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, where she was responsible for one of the most important university natural history collections in the nation.

Since April 1994, Richard has been Yale’s provost, which is the University’s chief academic and administrative officer, next to the President. As such, she has coordinated and overseen the educational policies and academic plans of all sectors of the institution, including Yale College, the Graduate School, the 10 professional schools, the University collections, and the various centers for research and scholarship. Richard has also borne principal responsibility for developing Yale’s operating and capital budgets and long-range financial plans.

As President Levin’s chief academic officer and as the University officer responsible for the development of Yale’s budgets and financial planning, Richard has worked simultaneously to strengthen Yale financially, academically and physically.

She has made the recruitment of senior faculty a priority and has been closely engaged in persuading renowned scholars to join the Yale faculty. She has also worked hard to increase the number of women and under-represented minorities on the faculty. The number of senior women in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has increased by one-third since 1994, to 66.

Faculty salaries have increased substantially during her tenure. Inheriting a substantial operating deficit upon becoming provost, she has worked to achieve financial health for the University. During her term, financial aid from the University’s own resources increased by more than 40% to $99 million for students in Yale College, the Graduate School and several professional schools. She also has worked to expand the administrative support for research endeavors, student services, and the University’s business infrastructure.

As provost, Richard has overseen the development of a robust set of long-range plans for the Schools and has helped to shape the $500 million initiative for science and engineering. She has helped to expand and reorganize the biological sciences, creating the new Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and the new integrated graduate program in biological and biomedical sciences. Among her many academic initiatives were the expansion of the programs of the Whitney Humanities Center and the strengthening of a number of key academic departments ranging from philosophy and sociology to political science. She recruited new leadership and oversaw the expansion of the Office of Cooperative Research, charged with the transfer of technology from faculty research to broad societal use.

Over $1.3 billion has been invested in building and renewing Yale’s campus during Richard’s tenure, and the long-range facility plans she has helped to develop will result in fully 75% of the campus being rebuilt by 2013.

As director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale from 1991 to 1994, Richard played a leading role in preserving more than 11 million natural history specimens and anthropological artifacts in the Peabody collections and in raising the funds to create a new environmental science center. She is also credited with reaffirming the central role of the museum in the greater New Haven community.

Richard has conducted research on the ecology and social behavior of wild primates in Central America, West Africa, and the Himalayan foothills, but she is most widely known for her work in the forests of southern Madagascar. Her research for the past twenty years has focused on the population dynamics, ecology and social behavior of the sifaka, one of Madagascar’s endangered primates, shedding new light on the unique pathways of evolution exhibited by the island’s animal community. In collaboration with her Malagasy colleagues, Professor Richard has also emphasized partnership with villagers in this remote region of Madagascar. Since 1977, she has helped lead an ongoing effort to conserve the area’s remarkable natural heritage and enhance socioeconomic opportunities for people trying to make a living in and around the forest.

Richard has always been an active participant in University affairs. She was director of graduate studies in Anthropology from 1980 to 1986, before chairing the department. Prior to becoming provost, she served as a member of several major University committees, and was a leader of the steering committees for the Studies in the Environment Major and the Interdisciplinary Organismal Biology Major.

Richard has been a leader of numerous professional organizations and scientific advisory councils. Since 1995, she has been a member of the Board of Directors of the World Wildlife Fund, the largest privately supported international conservation organization in the world. She also serves as a Director of the Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation, dedicated to the survival of wildlife and wildlands, and to the vitality of human communities with which they are inextricably linked.

She is the author of two books, Primates in Nature (1985, W.H. Freeman and Co.) and Behavioral Variation: Case Study of a Malagasy Lemur (1978, Bucknell University Press), and many articles on her areas of inquiry.

Richard is married to Robert E. Dewar, an archaeologist and for many years the chair of the anthropology department at the University of Connecticut. They have two daughters. Charlotte Dewar is in her junior year at Yale; Bessie Dewar graduated from Harvard in June, and this year she is at Pembroke College, Cambridge, working on a M.Phil degree in political thought and intellectual history.

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Media Contact

Tom Conroy: tom.conroy@yale.edu, 203-432-1345