Outgoing provost Liz Magill (left) and her successor Ian Baucom Dan Addison

Executive Vice President and Provost M. Elizabeth “Liz” Magill (Law ’95), the University of Virginia’s second in command, is leaving to become president of the University of Pennsylvania. 

The move came as a surprise, and it prompted some quick action in order for President James E. Ryan (Law ’92) to be able to combine the announcement of Magill’s departure with the naming of her successor.

Ian B. Baucom, 55, a nationally prominent figure in higher ed as dean of UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, moves into the role of EVP and provost, the chief academic officer and direct boss of the University deans. He’ll transition in March, allowing overlap with Magill before she reports for work in Philadelphia on July 1.

Baucom, who grew up amid apartheid in South Africa and began his studies as a political science major at Wake Forest University, has been one of UVA’s strongest champions of the founding mission of developing citizen leaders. “That historical call to be part of an experiment in how public education advances democratic life is real here,” Baucom told UVA Today. “It’s been an honor to be part of that in the College, but now, to work with colleagues and students across all the schools to advance that—there’s no comparison. There’s no other opportunity like it.”

His received his graduate degrees from Yale University, a master’s in African studies and a Ph.D. in English.

His and Magill’s promotions are subject to the formality of March governing board votes at their respective universities. Professor David L. Hill, 70, a former associate dean and psychology department chair, will serve as the interim dean of the College as Baucom sets up the search for his own more permanent replacement.

Filling deanships is one way provosts put their stamp on a university. Magill, or search committees under her purview, hired five. She also recruited UVA’s first vice provost for enrollment, overseeing admissions, financial aid and the registrar’s operations.

Baucom has been responsible for major hiring, too. Since he left the Duke University English Department in 2014 to become UVA dean, the College has brought on more than 200 faculty members. It also dramatically revamped the core curriculum, replacing check-the-boxes subject-matter requirements with a cross-disciplinary matrix of intellectual competencies.

“[H]e’s exactly the right person to step in as provost, and I know he’ll be ready to hit the ground running,” Ryan told UVA Today.

Ryan did some scrambling of his own. As Magill’s position was about to become open, Baucom had become a finalist for provost elsewhere, a spokesperson for the dean confirms. Ryan acted fast, dispensed with a formal search, and elevated Baucom.

Getting to Yes

Magill, 56, took some convincing to leave UVA, according to Scott L. Bok, the investment bank CEO who chairs Penn’s Board of Trustees and led the presidential search. “While a lot of candidates we spoke to sort of leaped at the opportunity to come lead Penn, it took a bit of discussion to get Liz there,” he says.

Magill seemed as though she’d be UVA provost for the long term, not 2½ years plus a semester of transition. When she arrived in the summer of 2019, Magill told Virginia Magazine she was not the sort of provost who wants to be a university president someday. “I have the job I want, with the person I want to work with,” she said.

She and Ryan are longtime colleagues. They overlapped for 14 years on the UVA law faculty before they each left for prestigious deanships, Magill to lead Stanford Law School. Ryan previously told Virginia Magazine he approached Magill about possibly being his provost before he had formally accepted the UVA presidency.

Once the pieces fell into place, Ryan made good on his promise to give her more influence than UVA provosts have had. When the COVID crisis hit, she led the University’s response as part of a senior leadership collaboration.

Penn had the time to conduct a deliberate search. Since 2016, it had been understood that Penn President Amy Gutmann would not get another contract extension beyond the current academic year, when, at 72, she would have served 18 years. Then, in June, reports percolated that U.S. President Joe Biden was nominating her as ambassador to Germany.

Magill’s roles at Stanford and then UVA, institutions Bok considers close parallels to Penn, made her a frontrunner. “There aren’t that many leading people in the academic world who have had two really senior jobs and still have a long runway ahead such that they could take on a third, and they could be the president,” he says.

Penn had a strong pitch to make. Magill would lead an institution with similar enrollment and breadth to UVA’s, a longer history that also traces to a Founding Father (Benjamin Franklin), a top 10 U.S. News ranking (UVA ranks 25th), a larger endowment and, likely a relief, an already completed $5.4 billion capital campaign.

Bok says they had a handshake understanding before the holidays.

UVA Counsel Heaphy Fired

Another difference: Penn is private, not subject to state control. That came into play with the departure of another member of Ryan’s inner circle, University counsel Timothy J. Heaphy (Col ’86, Law ’91). Jason S. Miyares, Virginia’s newly elected Republican attorney general, sacked Heaphy in January. After a backlash, Miyares insisted it wasn’t related to Heaphy’s role, while on temporary leave, as chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House committee investigating January 6.

Heaphy was one of 30 firings during a whirlwind first week for Miyares in which he started some investigations of his own, rescinded Virginia’s support for abortion rights at the U.S. Supreme Court and announced: “There’s a new sheriff in town.” Miyares delivered the line to a classmate of Heaphy’s, Fox News host Laura Ingraham (Law ’91).