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Clark University turns to a graduate as its next president

Clark University has named David B. Fithian, a graduate of the Worcester school, as its next president.

The university announced Fithian’s appointment Monday in a community-wide e-mail. Fithian replaces David P. Angel, who is retiring at the end of June after 32 years at Clark, including the past decade as its president.

“David is the transformational leader we were looking for,” said Ross Gillman, the chairman of Clark’s board of trustees. “Beyond that, he’s a Clarkie. We’re part of his DNA.”

Fithian, 55, will be Clark’s first openly gay president, university officials said.

Fithian said he is looking forward to returning to Clark, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1987.

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“It’s a remarkable mid-sized university. It’s got a solid foundation,” Fithian said in an interview last week. “I sensed a hunger, an appetite about what more is possible.”

Fithian said he thinks there are opportunities to bolster Clark’s graduate programs, participate in Worcester’s entrepreneurial surge, and expand on its neighborhood partnerships, by, for example, offering job training opportunities.

Fithian is currently an executive vice president at the University of Chicago, where he worked since 2007. Prior to that, Fithian was an associate dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard University.

Clark, which is located near downtown Worcester, enrolls 3,120 undergraduate and graduate students. The university has in recent years been upgrading its facilities and built a new student center and track and field facility.

At a time when some colleges and universities are struggling to attract students, Clark’s enrollment has held steady. The university, in particular, has grown its graduate programs for business, professional studies, and international development and environment.

Most of Fithian’s experience has been in college administration. At Harvard, he was closely involved in student affairs and faculty issues, and he led strategic planning efforts at the University of Chicago and provided oversight of that institution’s building projects.

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“He is a highly effective strategic leader,” said University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer in a statement. “He makes things happen.”

Harry Lewis, a former dean at Harvard College, said he appreciated Fithian’s integrity and straight-forward recommendations.

“He was one of the people who I knew I could rely on for honest, disinterested, good advice, that was uncolored by personal agendas and academic politics,” Lewis said.

Fithian and his husband, Michael Rodriguez, raise and breed Friesian horses, which are used in competition, on the couple’s farm in northwest Indiana. Fithian said the couple will be looking to move their farm operation in the next year to the Worcester area.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to come back,” Fithian said.


Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.