John Karl Scholz named University of Oregon president

EUGENE, Ore. March 13, 2023 The University of Oregon Board of Trustees voted unanimously today to name John Karl Scholz — a distinguished economist, professor, and current provost at University of Wisconsin-Madison — as the university’s 19th president. He starts July 1.

Karl Scholz

“We are thrilled and honored to welcome Karl Scholz to Oregon. He is a visionary leader with a deep passion for public higher education.” said Ginevra Ralph, UO Board of Trustees Chair. “He is deeply committed to the success of students, to the university’s research and liberal arts roots, and its focus on creating societal impact. Incoming President Scholz possesses all the qualities necessary to take the University of Oregon into its next ambitious era.”

Scholz is a leading economist, national thought leader and professor whose economics expertise is in household savings, low-wage labor markets, financial barriers to higher education, and bankruptcy laws. He served in two presidential administrations, working in both the U.S. Treasury Department and the Council of Economic Advisors.

“I would like to thank the UO Board of Trustees, the members of the search committee, and everyone in the University of Oregon community for your extraordinarily warm welcome,” said Scholz. “Melissa and I are excited to be Ducks, and we can’t wait to join you on campus soon.”

Scholz will assume leadership of a world-class public research institution with a 146-year history of excellence in academics, discovery, student success, inclusion, and impact. The UO is a Carnegie R1 research university and a member of the Association of American Universities. The UO’s highly regarded faculty excel in the humanities, arts, social sciences, sciences, and the professions, as well as in areas of societal impact, such as the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact and the Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health in Portland. The UO’s 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students come from every U.S. state and across the globe. As the state of Oregon’s flagship public university, the UO is an economic driver for Oregon with an estimated $1.2 billion annual economic impact.

A 22-member presidential search committee comprised of trustees, students, faculty, staff, academic and administrative leaders guided the 6-month effort that culminated in today’s announcement. The committee utilized extensive feedback gathered from more than 40 listening sessions to shape a profile on what attributes the UO’s next leader should possess.

Board trustee and chair of the presidential search committee Connie Seeley highlighted that Scholz demonstrates a strong commitment to service in support of the public good.

“I think everyone on the search committee would agree with me when I say Karl Scholz is an inspiring, humble, and approachable leader with an impressive depth of experience. He radiates his joy for working in public higher education and care for serving students," said Seeley. “He personifies the qualities the university community said they most value.”

Scholz has been provost at University of Wisconsin-Madison since August of 2019. He previously served for six years as the dean of the College of Letters & Science. He is also the Nellie June Gray Professor of Economic Policy in the department of economics and served as the director of UW–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty for four years.

As UW provost, Scholz helped create the university’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring to enhance instruction. As dean, he launched a student success initiative that helps undergraduates identify career opportunities early, gain practical experience and highlight the value of their education.

From 1990 to 1991 he was a senior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisors and from 1997 to 1998 he served as deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department.

Scholz, a Nebraska native, graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and earned his doctorate from Stanford University. He is married to Melissa Scholz, an attorney focused on non-profit law. They have three daughters, one of whom is currently a PhD student at the University of Oregon.

Interim President Patrick Phillips, who has been serving in the role since August, will return to the UO faculty and continue to lead his biology lab.

To learn more about the search process, search committee, and the university and public engagement process, visit the UO Board of Trustees website.