Dean John W. Boyer to Transition into Role as Senior Advisor in 2023

  • John W. Boyer has transformed the undergraduate College since he was appointed dean in 1992. His six-term tenure is the longest for a College dean in the University's history.

  • John W. Boyer, seen with first-years during Orientation Week 2021, is revered among undergraduate students at UChicago.

January 24, 2022

College leader for the past 30 years to assume new duties after 2022-23 academic year

John W. Boyer, who has served as dean of the undergraduate College at the University of Chicago for the past 30 years, will transition into a new role as Senior Advisor to the President at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.

An esteemed University leader, Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75, will assume responsibilities in his new role involving international development, global education, and the support of programs involving public discourse, academic freedom, and the history of higher education. Boyer, the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of History, also will continue to teach in the College.

During his time as dean—a position he served in for an unprecedented six terms—Boyer transformed the College, more than doubling undergraduate enrollment from the start of his tenure while remaining true to the enduring values on which the University was founded.

“Under John’s extraordinary leadership, the College experienced tremendous growth and innovation, furthering recognition of the University as having one of the world’s foremost colleges,” said President Paul Alivisatos. “I am immensely grateful for John’s partnership and remarkable impact as a colleague, scholar and the dean of the College.”

“I am immensely grateful for John’s partnership and remarkable impact as a colleague, scholar and the dean of the College.” —President Paul Alivisatos

After completing his master’s degree at the University in 1969 and Ph.D. in 1975, Boyer held several administrative positions before being appointed dean of the College in 1992. Among his many significant accomplishments:

  • Updated the Core curriculum and increased programs of study to reflect evolving societal interests and areas of inquiry, such as new majors in data science, astrophysics, and media arts and design.
  • More than doubled the College’s enrollment from the start of his tenure, while continually strengthening academic quality and support services, and furthering access through an enhanced admissions process with increased financial aid and programming that enables more students to pursue higher education, regardless of background, geographic location or ability to pay.
  • Raised more than $1.3 billion in philanthropy to further student access, financial aid, career programs and the vibrancy of campus. This includes establishing the Odyssey Scholarship Program and building the Campus North and Woodlawn residential and dining commons with facilities to integrate residential life and learning.
  • Developed the unique model of the Civilization Abroad programs, establishing the Center in Paris in 2003 and launching construction of the Center’s new building that will open in 2024. Currently, nearly 60 percent of undergraduates study abroad at more than 20 sites globally.
  • Created what today is recognized as one of the top career programs in higher education, which include paid summer internships for each first-year College student.

“When I accepted the Deanship in 1992, the College was a small unit within the wider University, with impressive educational traditions but with many challenges,” Boyer wrote in a message to the College community. “Over the past three decades the faculty of the College have made extraordinary efforts to protect what was most essential about our educational traditions from the 1930s through the 1980s while also reimagining the culture of student life.”

“These changes have transpired within a deep ongoing commitment by the faculty to protecting our cherished traditions of general education (the Core), as well as our devotion to academic rigor and to practices of free and open discourse that are relatively unique in American higher education today.”

As one of the University’s resident historians, Boyer’s passion for and study of the University’s founding and evolution informed his leadership. It also has enabled generations of faculty, staff, students and alumni to know the University’s history and how present-day occurrences relate to it. A prolific author, his book, The University of Chicago: A History, has become a staple for all who seek to appreciate why the University is considered one of the world’s most influential institutions of higher education. His white papers and South Side bike tour also provide important insights on the city of Chicago and Hyde Park community. In addition, remaining an active scholar of modern European history, his book Austria, 1867-1955 for the Oxford History of Modern Europe series will be published in late 2022 by Oxford University Press.

In addition to his leadership and scholarly contributions, Boyer is revered among the undergraduate student population. The tradition of seeing him bicycling across campus, taking selfies on the Quad with students, and having his image on University apparel have become an integral and beloved part of the College experience.

The University will begin the formal process for selecting the next dean shortly, by assembling a faculty committee to advise the president and the provost. Events to honor Boyer’s contributions to the University also will be planned and announced later this year.