Distributed February 9, 2000
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Mark Nickel

Brown Corporation names Sheila Blumstein as interim president

Sheila E. Blumstein, a former dean of the College and former interim provost, has been named interim president of Brown University. Blumstein will begin serving immediately and will continue until Brown’s 18th president is sworn in.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sheila E. Blumstein, the Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and chair of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, has been named interim president of Brown University. Her appointment was approved unanimously by the Brown Corporation at noon today (Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2000), just 48 hours after President E. Gordon Gee’s announcement that he would leave Brown for Vanderbilt University.

“Sheila Blumstein has an unsurpassed record of academic achievement and service to Brown and has a thorough understanding of the University’s history, culture, needs and ambitions,” said Brown Chancellor Stephen Robert. “As a former dean of the College and interim provost, she can assume leadership of the University quickly, and she enjoys the respect and support of our Corporation, faculty, students and administrators. Sheila is a magnificent citizen of the University community and will be a strong, effective and successful interim president.”

Blumstein’s appointment is effective immediately. She will continue as interim president until Brown’s 18th president is selected and sworn in.

“I am daunted by the responsibility, but I was honored to be asked by the Corporation and I am prepared to serve,” Blumstein said. “Like my colleagues throughout the campus community, I have come to love Brown and respect its rich and deep traditions of academic quality. I am confident that we will all pull together to sustain the University and keep it moving forward.”

Blumstein, a highly respected specialist in the human production and understanding of language and its neural bases, maintains an active laboratory with research support from the National Institutes of Health. She is teaching a course in her specialty area three times per week, advising the thesis projects of two doctoral students, and serving as chair of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences. One of her immediate challenges as interim president is to devise a way to keep her laboratory running and to continue teaching her course – a juggling act, Blumstein said, that will require help from her colleagues.

“I love the classroom and I love research,” Blumstein said, “and I have made it clear to the Corporation that, while I am willing to serve as interim president, I am not and will not be a candidate for the permanent position.”

Brown University, the nation’s seventh-oldest institution of higher learning, is an internationally respected center for teaching and research in Providence, R.I.

Sheila Blumstein

Blumstein, a 1965 graduate (Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Sigma Iota, magna cum laude) of the University of Rochester, earned her Ph.D. in linguistics at Harvard in 1970. She came to Brown in 1970 as assistant professor of linguistics, was promoted to associate professor in 1976 and became a full professor in 1981. She was chair of the Department of Linguistics from 1978 to 1981 and chair of the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from 1986 to 1987, when she was named dean of the College. In 1991 she was named the Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences. Although she announced her retirement as dean effective July 1, 1994, Blumstein continued to serve in that capacity until a successor was named in May 1995.

Late in 1997, Blumstein was asked to serve as interim provost. She agreed and served from January 6, 1998, through the end of the academic year, when she returned to full-time teaching and research.

An internationally recognized expert in neurolinguistics and speech processing, Blumstein has received numerous academic honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Claude Pepper Investigator Award, Radcliffe Institute Fellow, Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Fellow of the American Philosophical Society.