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Thursday, July 24, 2014

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Taylor to step down as dean of the faculty; search committee formed

Joseph Taylor, dean of the faculty at Princeton since 1997, will step down from that post at the end of the academic year in June.

Taylor, the James McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, will return to full-time teaching and research.

"It's been a terrific experience," Taylor said. "I've really enjoyed working with both presidents Harold Shapiro and Shirley Tilghman. It has been a real privilege. Princeton has been served well over the years by having members of its faculty willing to spend time in the senior administration. I am happy that I was persuaded by Harold to take a turn at doing that."

Taylor originally was appointed to a five-year term as dean. This past June, his term was extended for one year. He has kept up with his research and stayed in touch with his colleagues in physics by spending most Friday afternoons in his office in the department.

"I promised Harold five years," he said. "I always imagined that I would be coming back to the department around this time. I was very willing to stay on and help Shirley during her first two years. But if I'm ever going to go back to doing the kinds of things that I do in the physics department, now is the time."

"Joe Taylor has provided exceptional leadership for Princeton and has helped to strengthen our faculty in significant ways," Tilghman said. "I have relied heavily on his wise counsel and excellent judgment, and was deeply grateful that he agreed to extend his service for an additional year. Now our challenge is to find someone with similar qualities to succeed him."

Tilghman has appointed a search committee for Taylor's replacement that consists of: Philip Nord, professor of history, who will serve as committee chair; Tony Dahlen, professor of geosciences; Caryl Emerson, the A. Watson Armour III University Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Bo Honore, professor of economics; Peter Jaffe, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Suzanne Staggs, associate professor of physics; and Michael Wood, the Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English.

The dean of the faculty, who traditionally comes from the ranks of the faculty at Princeton, has administrative oversight of the departments and programs of instruction and is responsible for recruiting and retaining faculty members. Taylor said the highlights of his time in the position include taking advantage of the opportunity to get to know many faculty across the University.

"Most of us as academics are fairly narrowly focused much of the time in our discipline," he said. "We don't get a chance to appreciate all of the wonderful things that are going on in the intellectual environment here. I have had a good reason to do it as dean and really enjoyed that."

Taylor said he also particularly enjoyed interacting with Princeton's alumni. "They are very loyal to the institution, and they care a lot about it," he said. "They appreciate what they had when they were here, and they certainly appreciate the fact that we are trying to maintain and improve the quality of the faculty and the professional staffs over time."

Taylor joined the Princeton faculty in 1980 and was named to the McDonnell chair in 1986. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 1993 with Russell Hulse, principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, for their discovery of a unique twin star system known as a binary pulsar and its use to verify Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Taylor also has received the Dannie Heineman Prize of the American Astronomical Society and American Institute of Physics, a MacArthur Fellowship and the Wolf Prize in Physics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society.

He earned his B.A. degree with honors from Haverford College and his Ph.D. degree from Harvard University.

Contact: Ruth Stevens (609) 258-3601

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