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Computer Scientist to Become KU Provost

April 30, 2010

Jeffrey S. Vitter, an administrator who has held progressively challenging leadership positions at four of the nation’s top public and private universities, has beem named University of Kansas provost and executive vice chancellor.

“I am very pleased that Jeff Vitter will join KU in this important leadership role,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “He brings extensive academic and administrative experience, from faculty member at Brown to department chair at Duke, to dean at Purdue and provost at Texas A&M. He also has an outstanding record as a scholar.”

A professor of computer science and former provost at Texas A&M University, Vitter will assume the post of Lawrence campus chief academic and operating officer July 1. He also will hold the rank of professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Vitter’s wife, Sharon Weaver Vitter, a native of Miami County, graduated from KU with a bachelor’s in pharmacy in 1978, making the Vitters frequent visitors to Kansas.

“Sharon and I are delighted to be coming to KU — with its rich tradition of excellence and strong sense of pride,” Vitter said. “I look forward to partnering with Chancellor Gray-Little and the entire KU community, so that together we achieve new levels of excellence and reaffirm KU’s role as one of this nation’s outstanding public flagship universities.”

Vitter served as Texas A&M’s provost and executive vice president for academics from 2008 to 2009, leading the 48,000-student university in the development of the institution’s academic master plan and launching initiatives affecting faculty start-up allocations, multidisciplinary priorities and diversity. He also oversaw A&M’s campus in Doha, Qatar.

As the Frederick Hovde Dean of the College of Science at Purdue University from 2002 to 2008, Vitter led the collaborative development of two strategic plans, establishing a dual focus of excellence in core departments and in multidisciplinary collaborations. He led the development of a new outcomes-based college curriculum and oversaw net growth by roughly 60 faculty members.

At Duke from 1993 to 2002, Vitter held a distinguished professorship and chaired the Department of Computer Science for eight and a half years. From 1980 to 1993, he progressed through the faculty ranks and served in administrative roles at Brown University.

Vitter has more than 280 book, journal, conference and patent publications, primarily on the algorithmic aspects of processing massive amounts of information. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He was named a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and won a Fulbright scholarship.

“We were particularly impressed by Jeff Vitter’s understanding of the challenges facing public universities and his deep commitment to the full range of scholarship in which a public university engages,” said Mabel Rice, the Fred and Virginia Merrill Distinguished Professor of Advanced Studies and chair of the 16-member provost search committee.

Vitter earned a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame in 1977, a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University in 1980 and a master’s of business administration from Duke in 2002. He was born and raised in New Orleans.

The Vitters have three children: daughters Jillian, a graduate of Notre Dame and now a second-year medical student at Georgetown University, and Audrey, a freshman at Notre Dame in chemical engineering; and son Scott, a senior at Notre Dame in mechanical engineering.

Vitter will succeed Danny Anderson, who was named interim provost in 2009 at the departure of Richard Lariviere, who left KU to become president of the University of Oregon.

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