Saying he was “truly honored” that Syracuse University took a chance on him to become its new chancellor, Kent D. Syverud vowed in an acceptance speech Thursday to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“I mean to make the most of it,” said Syverud, dean of the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis. “With your help, with your advice, and with your support, I will do that. I’m in, and I sure hope you are, too.”
Syverud was selected from among 270 candidates as Syracuse’s 12th chancellor and president in a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon by the college’s board of trustees. He will succeed Nancy Cantor, who will become chancellor of Rutgers University’s Newark, N.J., campus on Jan. 1. Syverud will start at Syracuse in mid-January.
The 56-year-old native of Irondequoit, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester, also served as dean of Vanderbilt University Law School from 1997-2005 and was clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He’s currently a trustee of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill trust.
Syverud, a self-proclaimed sports fan, now will lead a private university with an enrollment of more than 21,000 students that has just transitioned athletically from the Big East Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference. That was not lost on the incoming chancellor, who will oversee a $1 billion annual budget and a roughly $1 billion endowment.
“I am certain that we are going to accomplish great things together, that we are going to turn heads, that we are going to manage occasional hardships and disagreements,” said Syverud, who received several appreciative applauses during his 12-minute address at Hendricks Chapel. “That we are going to flatten the competition, including Duke, and that along the way we will help the whole world see Syracuse ... as the best place that anyone could want to be.”
Cantor will leave an institution markedly larger in student enrollment than when she took over and one with a bigger role in the city of Syracuse than ever before. Syverud said he is committed to strengthening research at Syracuse while continuing the community engagement that has been one of Cantor’s hallmarks.
“I still have so much more to learn ... about this university, this city and this region,” Syverud said, his voice occasionally cracking slightly. “I need to learn from each of you — each student, faculty member, staff member, alumnus. I need to learn how to bleed orange. I will work hard to learn exactly that. I will do so because I want with all my heart to steward this great place to an even greater future.”