Van Zandt Installed as University’s Eighth President

President David E. Van Zandt greets students before the installation ceremony.

David E. Van Zandt was officially installed as The New School’s eighth president during a ceremony in the university’s landmark John Tishman Auditorium on Thursday, September 15. Van Zandt arrived at the university eight months ago, after serving for 15 years as the dean of the School of Law at Northwestern University.

Michael J. Johnston, chair of the New School Board of Trustees, presided over the installation ceremony, which was witnessed by more than 400 students, faculty, and staff. Students from Mannes College The New School for Music and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music performed during the ceremony.

In an inaugural speech that outlined the university’s past, its present, and, under his leadership, its future, Van Zandt acknowledged the numerous complex challenges that confront universities and their stakeholders today. Noting that the United States has long been a world leader in higher education, Van Zandt observed that rising costs, dim employment prospects, shifts in government policies, and changes in the global economy have caused institutions to re-examine their mission to ensure that they are offering students something of enduring value.

We live in the heart of one of the greatest urban communities in the world, a world that is increasingly urban. Our students and faculty have the privilege of living and studying in a great urban laboratory,, Van Zandt said. The New School has the creativity, flexibility, and commitment to provide a different kind of education, one that will prepare our students to succeed in this dramatically changed world.

From the beginning, The New School has had a flexible structure that was highly entrepreneurial,, he added. The ‘New’ in our name refers not to youthfulness but to the fact that we are always pushing the envelope.,

Greeting the new president, Provost Tim Marshall shared an anecdote from the search process when Van Zandt indicated that he did not want to lead a ‘normal’ university.,

Now David I know there have been many surprises but I trust that we have at least delivered on this expectation,, Marshall said.

Melissa Holmes, an MS candidate in The New School for Public Engagement, offered a welcome from the Student Senate. Susan Yelavich, assistant professor at Parsons The New School for Design, greeted Van Zandt on behalf of the Faculty Senate, which she co-chairs. The installation ceremony also featured the annual Distinguished University Teaching Awards. Provost Tim Marshall and the leaders of four New School divisions introduced each award-winner by reading from student and faculty nominations, highlighting traits they felt best embodied The New School’s unconventional spirit.

In an appreciation of the new president, Henry Bienen, president emeritus of Northwestern University, praised Van Zandt for his outstanding accomplishments as dean of Northwestern’s School of Law. President Van Zandt’s willingness to think outside the conventional boxes and programs of law schools bodes well for his leadership of The New School,, said Bienen.

I don’t think there is a handy-dandy recipe for leadership success in higher education,, added Bienen. Rather, I believe that leadership in higher education, and perhaps leadership everywhere, is time, place, task, and context specific. The abilities and personal qualities that serve well in leading one university may not serve as well at another institution. However, there are some qualities that are givens or necessary in most situations: energy, courage, clear thinking, good humor, perspective, and respect for diverse views and people. All these David Van Zandt has.,

At a luncheon with Student Senate and Faculty Senate representatives earlier in the afternoon, Van Zandt commented about the eight-month lapse between his first day as president and the formal installation ceremony, My probation period is over. I’m happy I made it through.,