President of University of Texas at Austin coming to Atlanta to lead Emory

Gregory Fenves will replace outgoing Emory President Claire Sterk

The president of the University of Texas at Austin will become the new president of Emory University. Greg Fenves will replace Claire Sterk, who announced in November that she would leave her job as president in August. Sterk, who took the job three years ago, said she wanted to return to teaching.

“We are tremendously excited about the appointment of Greg Fenves, a world-class educator and brilliant leader,” says Bob Goddard, chair of Emory’s Board of Trustees and of the Presidential Selection Committee. “We wanted someone with deep experience leading a major research university and a stellar record of scholarship. We also sought an inspirational leader and a person of impeccable character. Greg Fenves embodies all that we hoped to find.

“We are also acutely aware of the impact that COVID-19 is having on our universities and our communities. Greg and I agree that, out of respect for all of those who are working hard to combat the virus and care for their families, we only want to make a brief introduction today. When the clouds lift and we are all able to return to our normal routines, we will plan a more complete welcome for Greg and his family,” said Goddard in a statement released Tuesday.

“I am deeply honored to be named president of Emory University by the Board of Trustees,” Fenves said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “It has been a privilege to lead UT Austin, which I believe is among America’s best public institutions of higher education. I am excited to join one of the country’s finest research universities. Optimistic about Emory’s future, I am convinced that working together as one university, we will move Emory from the outstanding institution it is today to one of eminence.

“But today, our universities face extraordinary challenges. In Atlanta and Austin, as well as across the country, courageous health professionals and brilliant scientists are caring for the stricken and searching for a vaccine, while our faculty are educating students at a distance. I stand with them, and we must continue with the immediate job at hand. Accordingly, for the next few months, I will devote my time and energy to leading UT Austin through this crisis. My wife, Carmel, and I look forward to the day when we can begin the next phase of our lives at Emory,” he said.

Fenves has led UT-Austin since 2015, after serving as executive vice president and provost, and as dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, all in civil engineering.

He began his career in 1984 as an assistant professor in UT’s Department of Civil Engineering. He then served more than 20 years on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where he became an internationally renowned expert on structural engineering for earthquakes and chair of its top-ranked department of civil and environmental engineering.

Reporting that an official announcement is expected this week, the Texas Tribune said, "During Fenves' tenure, the university successfully defended its race-conscious admissions program before the Supreme Court and expanded the financial assistance it offers low- and middle-income undergraduates. His comparatively calm term succeeded years of strife between former President Bill Powers and regents and statewide leaders who were pushing to make the university more closely resemble a business."