University News

Spies to step down in wake of Simmons’ resignation

News Editor
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Correction Appended.

Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president, will step down at the end of the calendar year, President Ruth Simmons announced Monday in an email to faculty and staff.

Spies joined the University January 2002 in a position Simmons created for him, Simmons said. He was previously vice president for finance and administration at Princeton.

Spies said he decided to step down when Simmons announced she would be leaving at the end of the academic year. 

“My role here has always been tied to her view of how planning should be done and the role of the Plan for Academic Enrichment,” he said.

Though Simmons said she expects the president-elect to be named before April, it will likely take longer to decide whether an equivalent vice president for planning position will exist after Spies leaves.

“Every president approaches this somewhat differently,” she said. “The Corporation did not, when I came, suggest anything as a format with respect to planning. This decision I was allowed to determine on my own, and so I’m sure the same courtesy will be extended to the new president to decide how they want to handle things.”

Simmons said she had “in a way” expected Spies to step down with her departure, given the closeness of their working relationship.

Spies said he does not know if one person will fill his role or if the position will be divided between multiple administrators. What is important, he said, is that the University maintains a “focus” on excelling in a few key areas — something he said has characterized the past decade.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” he said. “We have to focus our resources if we’re going to be successful, if we’re going to compete with institutions that are bigger than we are, if we’re going to attract the very best people.”

Spies played a key role in areas like redeveloping the Jewelry District in Providence and the ongoing negotiations between the University and the city. Simmons said the University brought Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, and Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and University relations, into the ongoing talks so that there will be other administrators with “deep knowledge of where we’ve been” if the debate continues past Spies’ departure.

“But obviously our goal has been to resolve that really as soon as possible rather than wait until the next academic year,” Simmons said. “What would happen is that if we’re able to finish it, that leaves the new president without the onerous task of trying to deal with all this.”

Spies worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce in trying to redevelop the Jewelry District in Providence. Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, said she was saddened to hear Spies would be leaving, though she was not surprised by the news. 

“The follower will have a predecessor who is very bold in action and committed,” White said, adding that she believes whoever succeeds him will also show dedication to developing the city’s economy.

“He’s been a partner from day one,” she said, citing his frequent meetings with the Chamber of Commerce — White and Spies met two to three times each week — as a sign of both his and Simmons’ commitment to the city.

Spies informed Simmons of his plan to step down a couple of weeks ago, she said. Simmons and Spies notified administrators, staff, faculty and city officials Monday.

Huidekoper said Spies told her of his intention Monday morning, adding that she is “happy for Dick,” though he is “obviously going to be missed.”

“Dick has been absolutely committed to Brown, and he’s focused and been very helpful in ensuring that Brown stays focused as well,” she said.

Huidekoper also cited the “special relationship” between Spies and Simmons, adding that the potential for a successor depends on the president-elect’s personal preference.

Spies said he did not announce his intention to step down earlier because he did not want to “put a damper” on work that still needs to be done. 

Though he does not yet have plans for after he leaves the University, Spies said he would like to continue working in higher education. One potential project is authoring a book with Simmons about higher education and university governance, he added.

A photo in Tuesday’s Herald of Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior advisor to the president, was incorrectly credited as courtesy of Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations. In fact, the photo should have been credited to Frank Mullin, photographer for Brown Alumni Magazine. The Herald regrets the error.