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New University of Oregon president named

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Oregon Capital Bureau

University of Wisconsin-Madison provost John Karl Scholz will be the next president of the University of Oregon, the school announced Monday.

A noted economist who served as an economics advisor to both Republican and Democratic presidents, he has specialized in studying household finances, low-wage workers and bankruptcy.

Scholz’s hiring capped a six-month search by a 22-member committee of trustees, faculty, staff, students and community leaders at the University of Oregon. Scholz will replace Michael Schill, who resigned last summer to become president of Northwestern University in Illinois. Schill had held the University of Oregon’s top job since 2015.

Connie Seeley, a University of Oregon trustee and chair of the search committee, said Scholz, who goes by his middle name, Karl, has the background and temperament to take on the job as the 19th president in the university’s history.

“Karl Scholz is an inspiring, humble, and approachable leader with an impressive depth of experience,” Seeley said in a statement Monday. “He radiates his joy for working in public higher education and care for serving students. He personifies the qualities the university community said they most value.”

Scholz said in a statement that he and his wife, Melissa, an attorney specializing in non-profit law, were looking forward to the move to Eugene. A statement Monday by the University of Wisconsin announcing Scholz’s departure said one of his three daughters is currently a graduate student at Oregon, working on a PhD in volcanology. 

“Melissa and I are excited to be Ducks, and we can’t wait to join you on campus soon,” Scholl said.

A Nebraska native, Scholz graduated from Carleton College. The small, private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, also counts former Oregon state senator and 2022 unaffiliated candidate for governor Betsy Johnson among its alumni. Scholz went on to get a doctorate in economics from Stanford University.

Scholz joined the faculty of at the University of Wisconsin since 1988. He served as senior staff economist for the Council of Economic Advisors in 1990-91 under President George H.W. Bush, a Republican. He returned to serve as deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department from 1997-98 during the second term of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Prior to becoming provost in August 2019, Scholz was dean of the College of Letters & Science.

University of Wisconsin chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a statement Monday that Scholz had been a key university leader in navigating academics through the COVID-19 pandemic, balancing the safety of students and staff while working to bring classes back to in-person teaching on the campus.

“We’ll miss him for all the ways that he has contributed over many years, including, above all, his warm presence and thoughtful leadership.”

Mnookin said Scholz had been a strong supporter of diversifying the teaching and student ranks at the University of Wisconsin.

In announcing Scholz as the new president, the University of Oregon said Interim President Patrick Phillips will return to teaching as a biology professor.

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