Last Monday, it was announced that Williams alumna Sally Kornbluth ’82 was appointed to be the new provost of Duke. Kornbluth will be Duke’s first female provost. Currently the James B. Duke Professor in the department of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke, as well as the vice dean for basic science in Duke’s School of Medicine, Kornbluth will succeed Peter Lange, who is stepping down from the position after 15 years. Her appointment was made final after a nationwide search that started last fall.
As Duke’s chief academic officer, Kornbluth will be in charge of many of Duke’s various schools and institutions, along with other offices including those of admissions, financial aid, libraries and information technology. “It’s early to articulate specific goals,” Kornbluth said when asked what her goals were as the new provost of Duke. “The most important thing for me at this point is to get the lay of the land and to make sure we continue the positive trajectory of the many exciting programs already underway.”
Kornbluth’s main focus during her first year is to meet with faculty members across the campus and accrue a list of goals and initiatives that they would like to see accomplished at the university. “Ultimately, we will embark on crafting a new strategic plan for Duke, based in the grass roots interests of the faculty.”
Kornbluth has been a member of the Duke faculty and administration since 1994, teaching various courses in the biomedical field and supporting the research of faculty and students.
Kornbluth’s academic pursuits, however, were not geared towards medicine from the very start. When asked how she arrived at her current position, Kornbluth explained that she owes it to her liberal arts education. Like many liberal arts students, Kornbluth graduated with a degree that is completely dissimilar from her current vocational pursuits; she graduated from the College in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.
“Williams gave me a deep appreciation for the value of a liberal arts education and for the importance of encouraging students to take courses outside of their immediate comfort zones,” Kornbluth said. Had it not been for the College’s distribution requirements and the lectures of such professors as Bill DeWitt and Steve Zotolli of the biology department, she would never have discovered her passion for the life sciences and academia.
After attending the College, Kornbluth went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in genetics from Cambridge University in England in 1984, followed by a Ph.D. in molecular oncology from the Rockefeller University in 1989 and a postdoctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. Since then, she has been widely recognized as a professor of medicine and has received multiple awards for her pedagogical excellence. When asked why she chose to pursue a career in education, Kornbluth said, “I chose a career in academia because of the excitement and intellectual freedom to explore new things that others had not seen or done before. Teaching, particularly mentoring students individually, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my time at Duke.”
As provost of Duke, Kornbluth hopes to use the liberal arts education and experiences she received from Williams to help students discover “what they want to do and tailor their educational programs and experiences to get them there.”
She will begin her term as provost on June 30, after Peter Lange officially steps down from his position.