DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp to Step Down Due to Health Issues

DU’s 18th Chancellor Rebecca Chopp. Photo: DU

University of Denver Chancellor Rebecca Chopp has announced that she will step down from her position on July 14, 2019, due to what she has termed “a complex neurological disorder”. DU Provost Jeremy Haefner has been named interim chancellor.

Chopp, the first female Chancellor at the University of Denver, was sworn into the position on September 18th, 2015. While recent speculation had centered around Chopp’s health, the announcement today was a surprise to many.

Prior to her arrival at the University of Denver, Chancellor Chopp was the 14th President of Swarthmore College. Chopp received her B.A.  from Kansas Wesleyan University, a Master of Divinity from St. Paul School of Theology and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Before Swarthmore, Chopp was the president of Colgate University. Before arriving at Colgate in 2002, Chopp was Dean and Titus Street Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School. She spent 15 years at Emory University before her tenure at Yale.

At the University of Denver, Chopp has been noted for her support of first generation students, like herself. She has a reputation as a solid fund-raiser, and under her leadership, DU recently broke ground on major capital improvements. Also, DU is in the early stages of delivering on her envisioned ‘DU District’ with a comprehensive multiple-year plan for campus and University Park improvements.

As it relates to athletics, under Chancellor Chopp’s watch, the University of Denver continued to win the  I-AAA Directors’ Cup as the best non-football school in DI athletics. Denver also won lacrosse (2015) and hockey (2017) NCAA championships, and Chopp hired DU’s new Athletic Director, Karlton Creech.

We wish Chancellor Chopp the very best in her health battle and thank her for her many contributions to the University of Denver.

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The following letter was released today from Chancellor Chopp:

Dear Friends,

As some of you know, I have struggled with health issues this year. Unfortunately, the doctors I have been working with have diagnosed me with a complex neurological disorder that I need to attend to sooner rather than later. After many tests and consultations, I have decided I must step down as Chancellor on July 14. As Chancellor, the 70- to 80-hour work weeks and the stress that naturally is connected to higher education in these unsettled times just does not permit me enough time to focus on improving my health. I have just shared this news with the Board of Trustees who agreed that after I step down as Chancellor in July, I will continue to serve DU as an advisor on special projects. I am also deeply honored that they chose to designate me Chancellor Emerita when I step down.

This community has been so supportive of my husband, Fred, me and our family, and we deeply appreciate it. Now, I would request that you not ask for further details about my health at this time. We need privacy in order to move forward and make sense of this unexpected turn of events. I am sure you can understand and respect that. Thank you.

The most important thing for all of us is what happens next. DU could not possibly be in better hands. Jeremy Haefner, our Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, is a known leader in the future of higher ed and has quickly become “our” leader. The Board of Trustees has wisely decided that Jeremy is the natural and perfect choice to serve as Interim Chancellor beginning in mid-July. Nancy Nicely, our Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff, knows how to ensure our priorities are executed and our community is nurtured. And Leslie Brunelli, who will arrive at DU on June 3, brings an experienced and steady hand to her position as Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Treasurer. The Chancellor’s Cabinet is strong, we have amazing Deans and creative, dedicated and hardworking faculty, staff and students. 

What an amazing five years we have spent together! It all began in 2014 when literally thousands of DU community members stepped forward to share their insights and experiences and help craft the next strategic vision for our University, DU Impact 2025. Together we agreed our emphasis should be on student learning and leading, discovery and design in an age of collaboration, engagement and empowerment in Denver and the Rocky Mountain West, and OneDU, the University’s shared sense of community and values. Embracing our commitments to diversity and inclusivity and sustainability, our common vision was to build on our strengths in research, teaching and service by developing a DU designed by all of us for the 21st century. 

Recently we broke ground on the new residence, the Dimond Family Residential Village, one of three adjacent buildings in the heart of campus that also includes a Career Achievement Center and Community Commons. Together this new and vibrant community gathering space will reshape the way our community comes together and will provide countless opportunities to deepen our connections to one another, and to DU. I am confident we will continue to build towards OneDU as more and more community members step up to play their rightful roles in the implementation of this vision of all that DU can be. This is a magnificent University and as is our tradition, we continue to pursue excellence in our unique DU way. I know that the Board of Trustees is committed to building on the success of these five years and to continue to lean into our innovation, creativity, boundless energy and practical idealism. 

I mean this sincerely–the greatest privilege of my life has been to work with you, to affirm our great strengths and imagine forward. You are, in the words of this simple Kansas girl, “good folks.” God bless you and I look forward to working beside you during this transition and in new and fulfilling ways after July 14.

With love and gratitude,
Rebecca

One thought on “DU Chancellor Rebecca Chopp to Step Down Due to Health Issues”

  1. Very sorry to hear about Chancellor Chopp’s medical issues, and I wish her the very best.

    It is hard for me to evaluate her legacy at DU. The article sums it up pretty well. Overall, I was not happy with the inclusive excellence as the be-all-end-all goal for DU. Seemed to permeate every damn thing the university discussed. Let’s not talk about the incoming classes credentials…let’s talk about how diverse they are. Let’s not talk about how new buildings fit into the campus architecture…let’s talk about how welcoming and inclusive they are. The last straw for me was getting rid of requirements to submit ACT and SAT scores. I know that this is somewhat of a trend. And I also read (and hope it’s true) that getting rid of such score requirements can actually increase selectivity at a school. But to me, it was just another indication of DU failing to advance its reputation to serve some ambiguous politically correct goals.

    Kudos to Chancellor Chopp for all the accomplishments referenced in the article. Looking forward to seeing how the new campus construction turns out. But I do hope that the next chancellor has a more practical approach to running the university, rather than funneling every aspect of decision making through an ideological funnel.

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