The University of Minnesota's longest-serving dean, Robert Elde, is stepping down in June as head of the College of Biological Sciences after nearly two decades, officials announced Wednesday.
At the same time, the university said it won't begin an immediate search for his replacement, because it is considering combining the college with another program on the St. Paul campus, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS).
Provost Karen Hanson said that she plans to appoint a task force to "examine the potential creation of a new college" that would combine both programs.
In a letter to colleagues, Hanson called Elde "a visionary leader and scientist" who led his college "at a time of explosive change in biosciences and technology."
Elde, a professor of neuroscience, joined the faculty in 1977 and has served as dean since 1995. During his tenure, he founded University Enterprise Laboratories, a privately funded "research incubator" to help propel university discoveries into the marketplace.
Hanson said that the idea of combining the two colleges has been under discussion for some time. But she said Elde's retirement announcement made it particularly timely, coming just three months after the departure of Allen Levine, the dean of CFANS. Brian Buhr, the interim dean of CFANS, said the two colleges already work closely together, and that a consolidation could strengthen both programs.
Hanson said that while the discussions are underway, there will be no changes for students or programs in either college.