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Stony Brook provost named University of Delaware president

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RANDALL CHASE, Associated Press

NEWARK, Del. (AP) — A Greek-born engineer with a long academic pedigree and an interest in clean-energy technology has been named the new president of the University of Delaware.

University trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Dennis Assanis on Wednesday following the unanimous recommendations of a 15-member search committee and the board’s executive committee.

Assanis, 56, currently serves as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University in New York. He succeeds Patrick Harker, who resigned as UD president earlier this year to become president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Assanis will assume his new post July 1.

“I’m truly honored and I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to lead the University of Delaware,” said Assanis, who indicated that campus diversity will be a priority for him.

“We’ve got to create inclusive environments where we celebrate diversity and academic excellence…. It all starts by appreciating and respecting everybody,” he said.

Assanis also said keeping college affordable for students and their families while ensuring adequate funding for research and scholarship is important. Like his predecessor, he voiced support for online learning, saying technology can be used to offer new education models that are “more active, more engaged and more experiential.”

“We need to focus our education on outcomes,” he said. “We need to focus on learning, not teaching.”

Assanis said his first-year goals include fundraising and building on efforts to create an inclusive and welcoming academic community.

“This is a must,” he said, adding that the university needs a strong strategic vision, especially for its new Science, Technology and Advanced Research, or STAR campus.

Donald Puglisi, who helped lead the search committee, said more than 100 people applied or were nominated for the presidency. The search committee looked at more than 50 dossiers, and 11 people were selected for personal interviews. The field then narrowed to four finalists, three of whom participated in a second round of in-depth interviews.

“The committee was charged with getting the very best person, and I really think we did that,” said Puglisi, who defended the secrecy of the search process by noting that many of the applicants are currently employed at other institutions.

“Those positions could be jeopardized if their names were made public,” said Puglisi, noting that the search process included six open forums and a variety of focus group meetings.

While at Stony Brook, Assanis has served as vice president for Brookhaven National Laboratory Affairs, helping strengthen the relationship between Stony Brook and Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Previously, he spent 17 years as an engineering professor at the University of Michigan, where he also served as director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and founding director of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Clean Vehicles. His other roles included founding director of the interdisciplinary graduate program in automotive engineering, chairman of the mechanical engineering department, director of the Automotive Research Center, and founding co-director of the General Motors-University of Michigan Collaborative Research Laboratory for Advanced Engine Systems.

Assanis was inducted into the National Academy of Engineers in 2008 for his scientific contributions to improving fuel economy and reducing emissions of internal combustion engines, and for promoting automotive engineering education. He holds five patents.

Assanis earned a bachelor’s degree with distinction in marine engineering from Newcastle University in England in 1980. He also holds four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a master’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in management, and a doctoral degree in power and propulsion.

He and his wife, Eleni, have two adult sons.

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