Fletcher Dean James Stavridis Steps Down

After five years as leader, enhancing the school’s programs and reputation, he heads to the private sector later this summer

Dean James Stavridis, F83, F84, who has led The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy for five years, will be leaving in early August to work with the Carlyle Group, an international private equity firm based in Washington, D.C.

“It has been an honor to serve as your dean and to have helped turn some of our hopes into realities over the last five years,” Stavridis said in a statement to the Fletcher community. He wrote that he felt lucky to work “where each of us is striving to further Fletcher’s original mission of helping others to better know—and ultimately benefit—our increasingly complicated world.”

Ian Johnstone, professor of international law at Fletcher, will be dean ad interim during the search for Stavridis’s successor. Johnstone has been a member of Fletcher’s faculty since 2000 and served as the school’s academic dean from 2013 to 2015. 

Stavridis, whose thirty-year career in the Navy included postings as supreme allied commander of NATO and heading the U.S. Southern Command, said the five years he served as Fletcher dean were the longest time he had ever spent in one place. “I’ve loved it here,” he said. “I’ve been happy every day here. But to all things there is a season, and I want to try a new challenge.”

Under Stavridis’s leadership, the school strengthened the study of critical issues such as cybersecurity, gender, social networks, and the role of Russia in the world. He also made it a priority to elevate women in the community. The school nearly doubled the number of women among its tenured and tenure-track faculty, appointed a woman as chair of its Board of Advisors for the first time, and instituted an annual Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award recognizing extraordinary alumnae.

Stavridis increased Fletcher’s visibility, partly through his own frequent appearances in the media. A prolific commentator on international affairs, he published three books and more than 200 articles during his tenure. With a donor’s support, he had a television studio built at the school to make it easier for Tufts faculty to appear on broadcast media, and he encouraged professors to share their ideas broadly.

Stavridis also forged partnerships with outside institutions, including one with the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, D.C., with which the school now holds events and conducts joint research projects. Fletcher hired its first director of executive education to increase those offerings, and just last week announced a new low-residency master’s degree in global business administration. “I feel very, very good about that program, which will extend our mission, add hundreds of students to the Fletcher community, bring us a significant source of revenue, and above all continue to raise the visibility of the school,” Stavridis said.

To undergird these accomplishments, Stavridis focused on the need for resources. Over the last five years, the school raised more than $70 million, nearly double its goal. Stavridis and his wife, Laura, hope to raise $1 million for the Admiral James and Laura Stavridis Endowed Scholarship Fund for outstanding Fletcher students. And he will continue as chair of the Friends of Fletcher, a group of supporters who meet twice a year in New York City.

“I intend to continue to be very involved with The Fletcher School. I’m not a dean who parachuted in here and is going to just vanish,” he said. “I’ll be an hour plane flight away—I think you’ll see me on campus frequently.”

Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco and Deborah T. Kochevar, Tufts provost and senior vice president ad interim, praised Stavridis as a “dynamic leader, a wonderful partner, and a prolific scholar” in a statement to the university community. “Jim has advanced Fletcher’s reputation and strengthened its standing as a premier school for the study of international affairs,” they wrote. “His service as dean has reflected and extended the same dedication to national security and global peace that have marked his entire career.”

At the Carlyle Group, which is one of the largest private equity funds in the world, Stavridis said he will provide global strategic advice, conduct analysis of potential financial transactions, offer leadership guidance to junior members of the firm, and provide strategic and business direction to individual companies in the fund’s portfolio. He will be based in Washington, D.C.

Stavridis won’t be cutting back on his other activities. He will continue to serve as chair of the board of the U.S. Naval Institute, chair of the board of counselors at McLarty Associates, a monthly columnist for Time magazine, and chief international security analyst for NBC News.

He is also writing a new book, tentatively titled Sea Stories: Lessons of Character and Leadership from the Lives of Ten Admirals. Each chapter will consider takeaways from the life story of an admiral, going back as far as a leader from Athens some 2,500 years ago and reaching into the recent past with the story of U.S. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who died in 1992. “The country is in great need of a book about character,” Stavridis said. “Character is what we do when we think no one is looking, and I think as a nation we could do better in that zone.”

Stavridis, who was vetted by the Hillary Clinton campaign as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016 and met with President-elect Trump as a possible candidate for a cabinet-level appointment, said he would not rule out a future political role, whether in an elected or appointed position under a future administration. “I will always consider the opportunity to serve the country again.”

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