Tilghman to serve as a founding trustee of new university

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman has agreed to serve as one of the founding trustees for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a new international, coeducational, graduate-level research university that is being created near Saudi Arabia's second largest city, Jeddah.

The university, referred to commonly as KAUST, is set to open in September of 2009. It will be governed by an independent 20-member board of trustees that will meet three times a year in New York, London and Saudi Arabia. The university plans to offer programs in energy and the environment, biosciences and bioengineering, materials science, and applied mathematics and computer science.

"I have been very selective in taking on outside responsibilities, and I deliberated carefully before accepting this commitment," Tilghman said. "Having devoted so much of my career to expanding educational opportunities for women, especially in the sciences and engineering, I decided that I should join with the other members of this board in encouraging the development of such opportunities in a region of the world where historically they have not been available. 

"It was critically important to me that KAUST is committed to providing a Western-style education, to attracting students and faculty from around the world and from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, and to educating men and women from different religious traditions together," she said. "In my view, these are important steps for Saudi Arabia, and as a trustee I will be carefully monitoring the university's success in achieving these objectives."

Among the other trustees on the international board are Frank H.T. Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University, and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, who currently heads the Ethical Globalization Initiative that advocates human rights in global governance and policymaking.

The incoming president of KAUST, Choon Fong Shih, is a distinguished engineer who received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and taught at Brown University before returning to his native Singapore, where he has just retired as president of the National University of Singapore. Tilghman had an opportunity to meet with him last March when she was in Singapore.