Letter from President Claire E. Sterk to the Emory community

Nov. 13, 2019

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Emory President Claire E. Sterk

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Emory President Claire E. Sterk sent the following message to the Emory community on Nov. 13, 2019

To the Emory Community:

Twenty-four years ago, I began my career at Emory as an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education and acting director of the Center for Women and Children. I immediately loved the work, enjoyed my colleagues and knew that I had found my professional home.

As I started my adventure with Emory, I couldn’t have imagined the opportunities and challenges ahead. I have served as a professor, department chair, president of the University Senate, chair of the University Council, senior vice provost, provost, and I’m in my fourth year as president. I’ve interacted with thousands of bright and inspiring students. I’ve worked with the world’s most brilliant and creative faculty. I’ve traveled the country and the world as an advocate and spokesperson for this great institution. My life has been deeply enriched by my experiences with Emory, and I feel enormous gratitude.

Now it’s time for the next chapter. This week, I informed the Board of Trustees that with the completion of this school year, I will conclude my service as president. This was a very difficult decision, one that Kirk and I have considered for many months. In my heart, however, I know it’s the right decision at the right time.

I see Emory as a place of hope and achievement, and I am honored to be Emory’s first woman president. I believe passionately in the power of diversity, and I’m appreciative that the Board of Trustees also holds this view as strongly. My central objective as president has been to continue and enhance Emory’s record of progress across a wide range of programs and departments. With the work of so many thousands of dedicated students, staff, faculty, alumni, donors and others, we have made important advances.

The achievements are too numerous to list, but I’m especially proud of building closer ties with the city of Atlanta, achieving a 28-percent increase in research funding since 2017, and the ever-expanding international recognition of Emory as an institution that attracts excellent students and premier faculty.

On this note, I want to pay a special tribute to the students and alumni. Their passion, dreams and loyalty have touched and energized me. Personally, I was honored to recently have been chosen as a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

While I’m announcing my retirement as president, I’m not ready to conclude my academic career or my affiliation with Emory. I started here as a professor, and now I will return to that honored position as a professor in our Rollins School of Public Health. I have never lost my passion for public health, and I look forward to resuming my work on some of the most important issues of our time such as the opioid crisis, access to mental health and global child health.

To those who may wonder why I’m making this announcement now, there are two reasons. First, I want to give members of the Board, who have always supported me so strongly, as much time as possible to do a thorough search for the next president. I have advised the Board that I will help in every way I can with the search and the transition. Second, I want to accelerate my personal transition. Serving as president is a seven-day-a-week job. I’m excited about teaching at Emory again, and I’m equally excited about having more time for friends, family and travel.

An open letter cannot begin to express the love and appreciation I have for the Emory community. I believe deeply in the good and important work we do. In an age of cynicism, with so many focused on the divisions in our society, Emory represents what a talented, diverse and motivated team can achieve together. The past 24 years have been unimaginably fulfilling and rewarding. I thank all of you for your support and I look forward to the next phase of my life with this wonderful institution.


With love and respect,
Claire E. Sterk