Our Views: A leader for Tulane

If the retirement of Tulane President Scott Cowen marks the end of a remarkable era in the university’s history, we hope that his successor will be able to build on his accomplishments and make a mark as its 15th president.

Michael Fitts, dean of the law school at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, brings to Tulane degrees from Harvard and Yale universities, experience in Washington, D.C., as a lawyer, and a career since 1985 at Penn’s law school.

He’s also a good fundraiser, as marked by his successful capital campaign for the law school.

That had to be a considerable recommendation to the search committee, as universities public or private become more dependent on the gifts of alumni and friends as government sources of funding diminish or come with strings attached.

But if shaking the money trees is part of the job, that should not obscure the roles a university president is called upon to play, in terms of both academic and organizational leadership for teaching and research missions.

Tulane is a giant among the institutions of Louisiana.

The education and research at the main campus, and the training of physicians in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, make it a vital contributor not only to the state’s economy but to the pursuit of human advancement here and around the world.

As the university community so heroically demonstrated under Cowen’s leadership after the ravages of hurricanes in 2005, the “future of the two are linked,” Fitts said of New Orleans and the university.

That is true, and Fitts’ recognition that the recovery and future growth of New Orleans and Louisiana are good for the university is a great starting point as he builds relationships in the Crescent City and the state.

We congratulate Fitts and wish him the best as he takes the helm at Tulane.