After meeting with the University trustees, President Tilghman announced her plan to step down at the end of the academic year.
After meeting with the University trustees, President Tilghman announced her plan to step down at the end of the academic year.

President Tilghman will step down in June, after 12 years at Princeton’s helm.

Tilghman’s departure follows the conclusion of a major fundraising campaign, which raised $1.88 billion over five years. Her decision was announced Sept. 22, a day after she informed University trustees who were meeting on campus.  

Tilghman said she felt her major priorities had been accomplished or were well on their way to being realized. “It was time for a new president to come in, to assess where we are. We’re an extraordinary institution, but we are not perfect, and there are a lot of ways in which we can be better. I think that’s going to be a more critical assessment if it’s done by somebody who’s not going to feel responsible for what’s already happened,” Tilghman told The Daily Princetonian. The board of trustees had not encouraged her to step down, she added.  

Tilghman’s accomplishments include implementing the four-year residential college system with the construction of Whitman College, leading the University through a sharp recession, expanding financial aid, placing new emphasis on giving students international experiences, creating the Lewis Center for the Arts and a new neuroscience institute, and fighting local opposition to lay the groundwork for the Arts and Transit neighborhood.  

A professor of molecular biology, Tilghman was selected as Princeton’s 19th leader — and its first woman president — in May 2001. 

In June, Tilghman will take a one-year leave, during which she plans to spend time in London, and then return to the University to teach. The search for a successor will be led by Kathryn Hall ’80, chairwoman of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees.

Links to selected PAW stories from President Tilghman’s time in Nassau Hall

From the lab to the corner office: Shirley Tilghman takes charge (Sept. 12, 2001)

Tilghman installed as president (Oct. 24, 2001) 

Princeton in Asia: University delegation works to increase visibility (Dec. 8, 2004) 

Princeton joins the debate over women in science (March 9, 2005)

Arts 101: Lewis ’55 makes a record gift (Feb. 15, 2006) 

Views on a presidency, after five years: A conversation with Shirley Tilghman (Sept. 27, 2006) 

Whitman College opens, creating a new ‘icon’ (Oct. 10, 2007) 

Robertson lawsuit settled (Jan. 28, 2009) 

Tilghman at 10: The president discusses her first decade in the job (Sept. 14, 2011) 

Slide show – Tilghman time line (Sept. 14, 2011) 

Freshmen to be prohibited from fraternities, sororities (Sept. 14, 2011) 

Aspire campaign closes; giving to Princeton sets records (Sept. 19, 2012)