Syracuse Finds Its New Chancellor: Kent Syverud

Well, it seems like not that long ago that I was writing about the departure of Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor, but the university has already found her successor. Chancellor-Designate Kent D. Syverud comes to Syracuse after serving as the Dean of the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis Missouri.

As for my two cents, I am cautiously optimistic he will continue to lead Syracuse University into the 21st Century. He is from Upstate/Western New York having graduated from Irondequoit High School near Rochester. My big problem is that he went to GEORGETOWN! How can Syracuse hire a Georgetown man to run it?! It's almost disgraceful.

However, I am not surprised. I think that Syracuse seems to have an inferiority complex with itself. A graduate of SU just doesn't seem to be "good enough" to be in charge. Syracuse thinks it needs to find someone from a more "prestigious" university and background in order to make Syracuse become the type of school that produces university chancellors.

"Since last year we have been engaged in a rigorous and comprehensive national search to identify SU’s next chancellor." wrote Richard L. Thompson, Chairman of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees, who oversaw the chancellor search.

Still, putting sports biases and inferiority complexes aside, I think Syverud might be an excellent choice to succeed Nancy Cantor. I like that he comes from a legal background having graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Further, not only was he the dean at Washington University Law he also served as dean at Vanderbilt University Law School from 1997 to 2005. He also comes from a teaching background. He taught law at both Washington and Vanderbilt while serving as dean and also taught at his alma mater Michigan Law.

In August 2010, Syverud was appointed Independent Trustee, with Judge John Martin, of the $20 billion British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trust. In 2012, Syverud is the chair elect of the Council of the ABA’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

But most of all, I like his dedication to higher education and to Syracuse. He genuinely seems to care about the future of SU and its students and alumni. In his opening remarks he said:
"I want you to know that I still have so much more to learn about this University, this city and this region. I need to learn from each of you, student, faculty, staff, alumni. I need to learn how to bleed orange. I will work hard to learn exactly that. I will do so because I want with all my heart to steward this great place to an even greater future."
Syverud does not seem like he is treating the position of SU Chancellor as a mere stepping stone. Additionally, he seems to understand Syracuse University and its history, maybe in ways that Cantor never did. It is this perspective most of all that makes me optimistic. Syverud said:

"Indeed, I stand on this sacred space where so much history has happened. I feel encompassed by a cloud of witnesses, past chancellors and faculty and students, who have been sitting in this space for decades. I am grateful, and humbled, to follow great chancellors to this duty today—including Tolley and Eggers and Shaw and Cantor. I have read hundreds of pages about them—in fact, I have read five volumes. [Holds them up] These are from a great library, your library, at the heart of this campus. You should visit it. This great history compels me to end these remarks with the same humility and ambition I heard from each of you who told me Syracuse took a chance on you.

So here goes."