CU Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano announces retirement

University of Colorado Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced his retirement on Tuesday after nearly 15 years in the position.

DiStefano made the announcement during his State of the Campus address Tuesday morning and received a standing ovation from the audience of students, faculty, staff and community members.

“It has been such a rewarding and humbling experience to serve as chancellor of Colorado’s flagship university for the past 15 years,” DiStefano said. “I am so proud of our faculty, staff and students and all that you have accomplished, and I also will treasure the many alumni, donors, parents and friends of the university I was lucky enough to meet.”

DiStefano plans to return to the School of Education as a faculty member. He began his CU Boulder career in that department nearly 50 years ago.

DiStefano said it’s time for him to step down and allow new leadership to take over. He said things are going “extremely well” on campus with high fall enrollment and retention numbers, increases in research dollars, and national publicity with Coach Prime, making it a perfect time for someone new to come in.

“I thought this would be a good time to make that transition for someone new to come in and really start working on a campus that’s been very, very successful,” DiStefano said.

DiStefano is the longest-serving chancellor in the history of CU Boulder. And out of the roughly 70 institutions that belong to the Association of American Universities, he said, he’s in the top five or six for longevity in the position.

DiStefano is a first-generation college student who was born and raised in Steubenville, Ohio. He began his education career as a high school English teacher near his hometown and earned his doctorate in humanities education from Ohio State University.

DiStefano joined CU Boulder in 1974 as an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the School of Education. In 1986, DiStefano was appointed dean of the School of Education, his first administrative position. He also served as provost before being appointed chancellor on May 5, 2009.

“Phil has been an extraordinary leader of CU Boulder as chancellor for 15 years and on the campus for 50, and he’s still going to be around,” CU System President Todd Saliman said. “I just have nothing but gratitude for all that he’s done, the lives that he’s made better, and I look forward to seeing where he goes in the future.”

DiStefano is expected to rejoin the School of Education in the fall of 2024 to serve as the senior executive director at the Center for Leadership. He will continue to hold his position as the Quigg and Virginia S. Newton Endowed Chair in Leadership where he oversees CU Boulder’s leadership programs, and he will support the transition of CU Boulder’s next chancellor.

“It’s been 30-some years that I’ve been in some sort of administrative role, and I came here to be a faculty member,” DiStefano said. “I came here to do research and teaching, so I’m feeling positive about going back and doing what I came here for. I’ve enjoyed every administrative position that I’ve had, but the reason I came to the university was to be a professor and teach and do research.”

Saliman will soon assemble a search committee and conduct a national search for a new chancellor. DiStefano said an announcement on his successor will likely occur in the spring of 2024 and the new chancellor will likely arrive on campus before the fall 2024 semester. Whenever the new chancellor arrives, he said, he’ll step down.

Saliman will share more information on the search process in the coming weeks.

“A new leader coming in, I believe, will look at the strengths of the campus and things that we’re doing that are moving the campus forward and … that leader may have expertise that I didn’t have and might suggest other ways of improving things on campus,” DiStefano said. “I believe whoever comes in will see a campus that is well-run, that’s been successful and always has room for improvement.”



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