The president of Caltech, Jean-Lou Chameau, announced Tuesday that he would step down from the leadership of the prestigious science- and math-oriented campus in Pasadena at the end of the current school year and become head of a new and well-endowed university in Saudi Arabia.
Chameau, a French-born civil engineer, has been president of Caltech since 2006 and helped the school maintain its high international academic rankings and achieve greater financial stability during a recessionary period of retrenchment at many other colleges, education experts said.
In statements released Tuesday, Chameau did not cite any reason for leaving Caltech other than the opportunity to become president of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. The graduate-level school enrolled its first students in 2009 and, in English, educates men and women together, to the dismay of some Islamic fundamentalists. It was founded with a $10-billion endowment from the oil-rich Saudi royal family.
"Until recently, I believed I would complete my career at Caltech and retire in Pasadena. I did not expect, however, to be presented with a unique and life-changing opportunity to lead KAUST," said Chameau, 59, in a statement. He said he was drawn to that campus' plans for "a 21st century university that serves as a beacon for learning and research and for contributions that both make to human welfare."