Skip to content

Stanford provost announces plans to step down this fall

Persis Drell intends to continue teaching at university
Stanford Provost Persis Drell addresses the graduates during Commencement ceremonies for the graduating class of 2020 at Stanford Stadium on June 11, 2022. Courtesy Don Feria/Stanford University.

Stanford Provost Persis Drell plans to step down later this year once her successor is in place, the university announced on Wednesday, May 3.

Drell moved into the provost role in February 2017 and has been in charge of leading the university's academic functions and overseeing its budget. She plans to leave the position during the fall quarter but will remain a faculty member and continue to teach at the university, Stanford said in a press release announcing the change.

University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne plans to create a faculty-led advisory committee to oversee the search for Drell's replacement. That committee will be chaired by Debra Satz, the dean of Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences, the university announced.

"Persis has led vigorously with spirit, candor, good humor, deep thoughtfulness, and steadfast dedication to Stanford's mission of teaching and research," Tessier-Lavigne said in the press release. "She has worked with our faculty to support and continually advance the academic excellence of Stanford, and she has had a major impact on nearly every aspect of university life."

As provost, the deans of Stanford's seven schools report to Drell, along with vice provosts who have roles in areas including research, education, student affairs, budget, faculty development, and equity and access, according to the university.

A physicist by training, Drell has a long history at Stanford. She grew up on the university's campus, with her father, physicist Sidney Drell, working as a Stanford professor.

Persis Drell went on to get her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College and doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. She ultimately returned to Stanford in 2002 to serve as a professor and director of research at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

She was later the director of SLAC and then the dean of the School of Engineering. In February 2017, she was named provost, several months after Marc Tessier-Levigne took over as president. Her predecessor, John Etchemendy, left with prior President John Hennessy.

In the press release announcing her decision to step down, Drell said that she was grateful for the opportunity to be provost and praised the university's students, faculty, staff and community.

"This is the right time," Drell said. "I began sharing with Marc some time ago my thoughts about the rough timeframe to complete my role as provost. Making the transition now provides the opportunity for a new provost to be in place in the fall quarter. I look forward to continuing to focus on the work of the Provost's Office until my successor is in place."

In her time as provost, Drell worked with Tessier-Lavigne to create the university's Long-Range Vision, which guides the university's work and direction. When COVID-19 hit, she was in charge of the university's "operational response" to the pandemic, including chairing the policymaking committee, the press release said. She also spearheaded the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment (IDEAL) initiative, which is meant to promote a sense of belonging on campus.

Board of Trustees chair Jerry Yang praised her work as provost and said that the board respects her decisions to leave the position.

"Persis has heartfelt thanks and admiration from the board for her energy, her leadership, and her unflagging dedication to preserving and amplifying the academic excellence of Stanford," Yang said in the release.


About the Author: Zoe Morgan

Zoe covers education, youth and families for the Mountain View Voice and Palo Alto Weekly /, with a focus on using data to tell compelling stories. A Mountain View native, she has previous experience reporting in California and Oregon.
Read more
push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks