DURHAM — Peter Lange, the longest-serving provost at Duke University, will step down in June from his role as chief academic officer.
He will return to the faculty, where he is a professor of political science, the university announced Wednesday.
Lange has served as provost since 1999, spanning the presidencies of both Nan Keohane and current Duke President Richard Brodhead.
“Peter Lange has made his mark on Duke University as have few others,” Brodhead said in Duke’s announcement. “He has helped launch some of Duke’s most distinctive academic programs and has led the transformation of the student experience at Duke as well, with a strong commitment to access, diversity and excellence.”
In an interview Wednesday, Lange said it seemed a good time to step aside because his third five-year term will end in June. Ever the straight shooter, Lange said it had been “almost always fun.”
“There’s a grind to the job sometimes that comes with the territory,” he said, “but there’s been so much excitement, so much innovation, so much openness to doing new things.”
Lange guided the university through two strategic plans and a drive to create interdisciplinary institutes, which have become a signature for Duke. They include the Duke Global Health Institute, the Duke Social Science Research Institute, the Duke Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. Professors from different fields work together at these centers, and two-thirds of Duke faculty were hired during Lange’s tenure.
Online and global
He has been an architect of Duke’s move toward online education and globalization, including Duke Kunshan University, a campus in China that drew harsh opposition from some faculty at Duke.
Earlier this year, Duke faculty rejected a deal to offer for-credit courses through an online consortium known as 2U. The venture had been backed by the administration, including Lange, but faculty expressed concern about whether the idea was properly vetted and about whether Duke should grant academic credit to outside students.
The university has not rejected other online experiments. It does offer free, noncredit courses through Coursera, a company that has pioneered massive open online courses.
Lange said the recent faculty unrest was to be expected at a time of pressure and constrained resources for universities.
“Higher education more generally is undergoing a lot of stresses and change, and it’s somewhat emblematic of that,” he said. “In that climate, you’re going to get some additional debate.”
Brodhead has named a committee to search for Lange’s successor.