Ostriker to leave provost's office, assume Cambridge professorship

May 22, 2001 9:48 a.m.

After six years as Princeton University's second-ranking officer, Provost Jeremiah Ostriker will leave that office at the end of this summer and assume one of the most prestigious professorships at the University of Cambridge, the Plumian Professorship of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy. He also will continue to hold his faculty position at Princeton as the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy and to work with his graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

"I was absolutely delighted by the selection of Shirley Tilghman as Princeton's next president," Ostriker said, "but it meant that scientists would be simultaneously holding the positions of president, provost and dean of the faculty. That seemed to me one scientist too many."

"There is great virtue in representing a range of disciplines in the most senior academic offices of the University. Leaving now allows President Tilghman to select a new provost and allows me to return for a while to the university I left when I first came to Princeton in 1965. The timing of the offer from Cambridge was most propitious, and I look forward with great eagerness to returning to full-time research and teaching," he said.

President Shapiro said, "I am very grateful to Jerry for his exceptional service as provost these last six years. He has taken leadership on a wide variety of issues and has helped to strengthen and improve the University in important respects. That he has done this while also continuing to make significant contributions as a scholar and teacher makes his many achievements as provost even more remarkable. I have benefited enormously from his clear thinking, his deep commitment to scholarship and education, his resourcefulness, his steadfast support and his friendship."

After earning his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Ostriker spent the academic year 1964-65 at Cambridge as a postdoctoral fellow before joining the Princeton faculty. He was promoted to full professor in 1971 and named to the Young professorship in 1982. From 1979 through 1995 he chaired the Department of Astrophysical Sciences and served as director of the Princeton University Observatory. In 1995 he was appointed provost.

Last fall Ostriker was awarded the National Medal of Science. His previous awards include the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of the Astronomische Gesellschaft in 1999, the Vainu Bappu Memorial Award of the Indian National Science Academy in 1993 and the Henry Norris Russell Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 1980.

He has chaired the Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy of the American Astronomical Society, served as a commission president for the International Astronomical Union, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

The Plumian Professorship at Cambridge was founded in 1704. Its original purpose was "to maintain a studious and learned professor of astronomy and experimental philosophy, and to buy him and his successors utensils and instruments, quadrants, telescopes, etc."

Ostriker plans to hold the professorship for three years before returning to Princeton. Next year, while officially on administrative leave from Princeton, he will donate the salary associated with the professorship to the astronomy department at Cambridge.

Ostriker's wife, Alicia, an acclaimed poet, also has an appointment at Cambridge next fall as a fellow at Clare Hall.

President-elect Tilghman said, "As a member of the faculty, I have greatly admired and appreciated Jerry's many contributions to Princeton over many years as a distinguished astrophysicist and chair of his department, and over the past six years as provost. He has personified and helped to ensure Princeton's commitment to excellence, and I look forward to his return to Princeton in the years ahead."

Tilghman said she hoped to have a new provost in place by September 1. She will consult with faculty members who have been elected by their colleagues to serve on the Committee on Appointments and Advancements and the recent presidential search committee, as well as with others, in considering possible candidates.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601