Princeton University is moving ahead with its planned $300 million Arts and Transit Neighborhood, but President Shirley Tilghman won’t be around to see it through. Tilghman has announced that she will step down at the end of the current school year on June 30, 2013.

Tilghman, who has been in the post since 2001 and is the university’s 19th president, announced her retirement in a letter E-mailed to students, faculty, staff, and alumni on September 22. She informed university officials of her intentions the previous day.

Although she is leaving, it is likely construction of the Arts and Transit project will be under way before she steps down.

University officials appearing before Princeton’s Site Plan Review Advisory Board on September 24 said that they hope to begin construction by next spring. The board recommended that the application be approved and passed on to the planning board.

The project has been opposed by some residents in Princeton Borough because the plan calls for moving the Dinky train station 460 feet south, away from most of the Borough population.

Meanwhile, the search for Tilghman’s successor will be led by Kathryn Hall, chair of the university’s board of trustees. The search committee will include nine members of the board, including Hall, four members of the faculty, two undergraduates, a graduate student, and a member of the staff.

“This search process is modeled after previous processes that have worked very well for Princeton and we look forward to active participation from all of Princeton’s key constituencies, including faculty, students, alumni, and others,” Hall said. “We will provide further information soon about the process and the composition of the search committee. Obviously our highest priority will be to identify the best possible person to serve as Princeton’s 20th president.

Hall, CEO and CIO of Hall Capital Partners in New York and San Francisco, said she hopes to provide the board of trustees with a recommendation by the spring. “Shirley Tilghman has provided exceptional leadership for Princeton over these past 11 years, building on its distinctive strengths and pioneering important new initiatives in areas ranging from neuroscience, energy research, and the arts to internationalization and campus life, while also providing national leadership on a broad range of issues,” said Hall. “We are deeply grateful for her service as president, and we are very pleased that she will remain a member of our faculty.”

A native of Canada, Tilghman joined Princeton in 1986 as a life sciences professor. In 2001 she was selected to replace Harold Shapiro as university president.

“There is a natural rhythm to university presidencies,” said Tilghman in her letter. “My own began with a listening tour in which I scrambled up a very steep learning curve to understand the complex task of presiding over a modern research university. Those conversations reinforced for me the qualities that make Princeton such a distinctive place.

“The middle years were spent formulating plans to effect those changes, recruiting the champions who would make them happen, and inspiring the generosity of our remarkable alumni, parents and friends in the Aspire campaign,” she said, referring to the five-year fundraising campaign completed on June 30 in which the university raised a record $1.88 billion.

“With the major priorities accomplished or well on their way to being realized, and the campaign successfully concluded, it is time for Princeton to turn to its 20th president to chart the path for the next decade and beyond,” Tilghman said. She also listed accomplishments from the past 11 years. Among them:

• An expansion of the undergraduate student body and launching the four-year college system.

• Increasing the number of students on financial aid, and more than doubling the average aid they received.

• The creation of a master plan for the future development of the campus that will guide the university’s thinking on architecture, landscaping, and sustainability.

• The creation of the Lewis Center for the Arts, and bringing “the creative and performing arts into their rightful place at the center of the curriculum so that art is happening everywhere you turn on campus.”

• Undergraduates and graduate students pursuing the study of the brain in the new Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

• A “radical makeover” in the chemistry department in the new Frick Laboratory by recruiting a new generation of world-class faculty.

• The Center for African American Studies, which has “leapt into the forefront of the field, defining how ethnic studies will be conceived in the future.”

• An increasing look toward a global perspective, as reflected in Bridge Year students spending their first year as Princetonians abroad, or in Global Seminar students studying with Princeton faculty all around the world during the summer.

• The creation of the Grand Challenges Program in the Princeton Environmental Institute and the founding of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

“I believe that together we have made Princeton a stronger and more vibrant university,” said Tilghman. She concluded her letter by saying that after a year’s leave she intends to “return to the faculty and to my other passion — teaching — in the years to come.”

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