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Eugene Sunshine to Retire From Northwestern

Senior Vice President for Business and Finance stepping down after 17 years

Eugene Sunshine

Gene Sunshine graduated from Northwestern in 1971 where he played baseball and served as sports editor of The Daily Northwestern. Read his letter to colleagues and friends.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Eugene S. Sunshine, Northwestern University’s senior vice president for business and finance, announced his retirement today (Jan. 27). He plans to step down this summer after 17 years at Northwestern to do more service on public and private boards, work as a consultant and teach.

Since 1997, Sunshine, 64, has been the chief administrative, business, financial and personnel officer of the University, as well as a key advisor to Northwestern’s president and Board of Trustees. He will continue in those roles until a date to be determined this summer and will assist with the transition to his successor, who is yet to be named.

Among other responsibilities, Sunshine supervises the offices of central budgeting, comptroller and auditing; oversees all capital facilities, planning, construction and building maintenance; directs all real estate activities; and supervises investment management, banking relationships, University Police, risk management and other University services.

In a letter sent Monday to friends and colleagues, Sunshine wrote that he was ready “to pursue the next phase of my professional career -- primarily board services, consulting and teaching. This is the plan I have long envisioned.

“Northwestern has provided me with an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to the leadership of my alma mater, which has been very gratifying,” he wrote. “I am also proud to have partnered with many exceptionally talented members of the University’s administration, Board of Trustees, faculty, students, alumni and others in the broader Northwestern community to accomplish so much in making our University what it is today.

“To everyone, I say thank you,” Sunshine added. “Please be assured that until I officially leave my desk -- and for a long time thereafter -- I will do whatever I can for the betterment of Northwestern University.”

Sunshine and his wife, Holly, plan to continue to live in their home in Glenview.

“Gene Sunshine has contributed enormously to the success and growth of Northwestern over the past 17 years, and he has been an invaluable administrator and admired leader through good economic times and challenging ones,” said Northwestern President Morton Schapiro.

“From new buildings that are reshaping the campus to the expansion of federal support for research facilities and 16 consecutive balanced budgets, Gene’s business acumen and steady fiscal stewardship have been instrumental in keeping Northwestern not just financially strong, but also thriving,” President Schapiro added. “And on top of all of this, he has also been an enthusiastic and effective advocate for the students at Northwestern, his and his wife Holly’s beloved alma mater.”

Sunshine is also a lecturer in leadership and management in MBA and other courses at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, School of Education and Social Policy and School of Continuing Studies. 

His lectures draw upon experiences in for-profit, nonprofit and government positions to offer insights about leadership. His career spans more than four decades and includes stints as senior vice president for administration at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and state treasurer of New York.

William Osborn, chairman of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees, observed that “Gene has been a remarkably effective leader at Northwestern over the past 17 years, and his impact will benefit the entire University community for years to come. 

“He has overseen significant expansion and renovation of our Evanston and Chicago campuses, dramatic growth in our endowment and the building of an extraordinarily strong, AAA-rated balance sheet, and he was a key driver in building the University relationship with our hospital partners,” Osborn said. “At the same time, he and Holly maintained a close personal connection with our students. We thank Gene for all his contributions to Northwestern and wish him and Holly all the best in retirement.”

An avid sports fan and Wildcat, Sunshine first came to Northwestern as an undergraduate and earned his B.A. here in 1971, playing varsity baseball and serving as sports editor of the Daily Northwestern along the way. His office walls are adorned with plaques, news stories and awards recognizing his service to the University and the communities he has served over the years.

“I first met Gene Sunshine when I was interviewed for the provost job at Johns Hopkins, where he was senior vice president, a job he was to take some years later at Northwestern,” recalled Northwestern President Emeritus Henry Bienen. “He stuck in my mind as being smart and knowledgeable across a wide range of issues, balanced and hard working.

“He showed all those qualities and more at Northwestern, where he has been crucial to the success of the University for many years,” added Bienen, who was president from 1995 to 2009. “I relied on Gene's excellent judgment on all the matters that fell under his responsibilities. Northwestern -- and I, personally -- are greatly in his debt."

Sunshine also serves as a principal central administration contact with Northwestern’s affiliated hospitals and leads the University’s relations with the cities of Chicago and Evanston.

During his tenure, Sunshine:

  • Oversaw the construction of more than 20 new buildings, additions, expansions or rehabilitations of facilities on Northwestern’s campuses, including the Pancoe-Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Life Sciences Pavilion and the Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics, additions to the Technological Institute, two residence halls, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center.
  • Led the University’s team in making possible the construction of a new biomedical research building for the Feinberg School of Medicine, slated to begin next year.
  • Reached multiple agreements with Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation governing critical financial matters for the Feinberg School of Medicine.
  • Successfully navigated the University through the financial markets and liquidity crises in the 2008-2010 economic downturn, with the University outperforming most peer institutions.
  • Arranged for the sale of more than $2 billion in long- and short-term taxable and tax-exempt financing for University construction projects and funding needs.
  • Worked with senior staff on negotiations with the federal government to increase by tens of millions of dollars the amount of reimbursement for actual incurred overhead costs, necessary to support sponsored research by University faculty.
  • Led the effort by the University to purchase buildings and land owned by Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, including buildings on land already owned by Northwestern but leased to the seminary. The University's purchase achieved long-term use of the property, located in the heart of the Evanston campus, which was needed for academic, residential and administrative purposes.
  • Worked to secure quality, affordable childcare and early education options for University employees and cooperative agreements with local facilities. Faculty, staff and full-time students now have access at discounted rates to Bright Horizons and the McGaw YMCA Children’s Center in Evanston and at the KinderCare Learning Center in Chicago. The centers provide childcare locations near their respective campuses.
  • Monetized virtually the entire future royalty stream associated with a drug for which the University owned the intellectual property rights. The proceeds became part of the University endowment to support undergraduate financial aid, research, graduate fellowships, construction and other needs.
  • Negotiated a land exchange involving four parcels totaling over three acres and significant zoning changes with the city of Evanston and purchased two office building complexes in Evanston at 1801 Sherman Ave. and 1201 Davis St.

Earlier, Sunshine worked as treasurer and senior vice president for administration at Johns Hopkins University between 1987 and 1997. Prior to that, he had various roles in New York state government between 1972 and 1987, including deputy commissioner for tax policy, state treasurer, and director of energy conservation and senior budget examiner.

All of Sunshine's immediate family also graduated from Northwestern. His wife, Holly Sunshine, earned a bachelor's degree from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 1971; his son, Brad, received a bachelor's degree from WCAS in 2001; and his daughter, Emily, earned a master's degree from the School of Education and Social Policy in 2008.

Sunshine also serves on a variety of boards, including the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Nuveen Investments, Inc., PlattForm Advertising, and the District 65 Foundation Advisory Board.

Sunshine also attended the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (1981); earned his Master of Public Administration at Maxwell Graduate School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (1972) and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University (1971).

- Storer H. Rowley contributed to this story.

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