Rockefeller University in New York City, one of the nation's most prestigious research centers, was shaken today by the surprise resignation of its president, molecular biologist Arnold Levine. The board of trustees issued a terse note yesterday evening reporting that "health considerations" had prompted him to announce that he is leaving, "effective immediately." A spokesperson for the university said that Levine is not in the president's office and will not be available to comment.
The university statement quoted Levine as saying: "I have become aware of matters affecting my own personal health that I need to address immediately. In light of my health issues, I will not be able to continue to lead this extraordinary institution and these talented people." Chairman of the Board Richard Fisher added in prepared remarks that Levine has been "an admired and inspirational leader." Levine, a highly respected researcher best known for his groundbreaking research on the tumor suppressor gene p53, came to Rockefeller from Princeton University in 1998. During his 3 years as president, he began a major fund-raising campaign and recruited 14 new members to the faculty.
According to sources close to the university, Levine offered to tender his resignation last month after the board learned that he and a female student had behaved "inappropriately" in the public bar of the faculty club on 10 January. After consulting widely with faculty and friends of the university, according to sources, the board decided to accept Levine's resignation. The board is expected to name an interim president this week.
Few were available to comment today. Eric Kandel, a Columbia University neuroscientist and former Rockefeller board member, called Levine "a very effective fund-raiser" and faculty recruiter. Former Rockefeller president Torsten Wiesel echoed Kandel's views, citing Levine's efforts to renovate the campus hospital and research facilities as his most important contribution to the university.
Press release from Rockefeller University