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McCoy stepping down as Vice President for Administration and Planning

For nearly four decades, Marilyn McCoy has guided Northwestern toward excellence
marilyn mccoy
Northwestern’s first female vice president, Marilyn McCoy has been responsible for a unique portfolio of key administrative functions that have propelled the advancement of the University. Photo by Shane Collins

Marilyn McCoy, Vice President for Administration and Planning, will step down from her role Aug. 1, after serving 38 years in this role at Northwestern.

The University’s first female vice president, McCoy has been responsible for a unique portfolio of key administrative functions that have propelled the advancement of the University. These have included administration and operations for the Board of Trustees, University-wide planning, program review and institutional research. She has supported four presidents in developing and executing their strategies and monitoring progress toward University goals.

“I want to say thank you to Northwestern and to all the individuals I have had the privilege to work with,” McCoy said. “This institution has so much commitment to being continuously better and having significant impact on the world, and that is because of the caliber and character of its people. Our office has worked in so many ways to bring this community — our faculty, administrators, trustees, students and others — together to ignite and enable our inspiring ambitions.”

McCoy has served as liaison to six Board chairs and serves as the administrative liaison to the Board of Trustees as well as the Executive Committee and Governance and Nominations Committee. Under her leadership, Administration and Planning has provided administrative leadership for Northwestern’s last three presidential searches.

“Marilyn’s decades of service to Northwestern have been instrumental to our rise in prominence. Her devotion to continuous improvement has been steadfast and has elevated our institution,” President Michael Schill said. “I’m personally grateful for Marilyn’s support during my transition to Northwestern and wish her the very best in retirement.”

Program review, the systematic evaluation of all academic and administrative units at Northwestern, was launched when McCoy arrived in 1985. With the oversight of a faculty-led council, four complete sets of reviews have been done for all academic and administrative units, and Northwestern’s process is often cited by visiting reviewers and others from peer institutions as a best-in-class process in higher education.

The Board of Trustees also elected to undergo four reviews, with the support of McCoy and her office, between the years of 1992 and 2023 as part of good governance practices.

“Marilyn has provided excellent support to the Board of Trustees as it has sought, together with several administrations, to drive Northwestern forward,” said Board Chair Peter Barris. “Board members have changed, but Marilyn has been a constant, a fount of institutional knowledge and unparalleled commitment. I am personally grateful for her dedicated partnership during both phases of the presidential search and my ascension as Board Chair, and I wish her all the very best in her well-earned retirement.”

McCoy is a tireless proponent of integrated data systems and analysis that help inform strategic decisions ranging across academic and administrative aspects of the enterprise. The annual University Benchmarks report, which provides university trend data and programmatic peer comparison information across various dimensions to aid leadership in decision-making, is an example of one such mechanism.

Throughout her tenure, McCoy has been committed to the pursuit and recognition of academic excellence. Her office is active in facilitating nominations for important external awards and has also worked with the Faculty Honors Committee to select honorees for the University’s annual Faculty Recognition Dinner to celebrate prestigious faculty accomplishments.

McCoy and her office have led strategic initiatives to catalyze research growth and collaboration, including the Lawrence B. Dumas Domain Dinner series and Research Networking Luncheons. She has led the development of several University strategic plans under the auspices of Northwestern’s presidents and provosts, most recently NorthWEstern WILL, which led to the University’s expanded eminence in areas such as nanotechnology and bioscience, a bolstered undergraduate experience, the establishment of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies and the associated WE WILL Campaign, which raised more than $6.1 billion to fund Northwestern’s ambitions.

“Vice President Marilyn McCoy has had one of the most extraordinary careers for a senior administrator in Northwestern’s history,” said President Emeritus Henry Bienen. “Marilyn served as Secretary to the Board of Trustees and led Program Review. In the latter role, she helped to improve academic and administrative departments and constructively moved Northwestern forward. This was her aim in all she did.

“I have always appreciated Marilyn’s honesty, tenacity, fearlessness and intelligence. All these she used to further Northwestern’s success, always putting the interests of the institution first. I personally and Northwestern are in her debt,” Bienen said. “Leigh and I wish Marilyn well in all her endeavors. She has been crucial to forging Northwestern into the front rank of great universities.”

Before joining Northwestern, McCoy was Director of Planning and Policy Studies at the University of Colorado system and served there as interim Vice President of Administration. McCoy is past president of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) and was an early and active member of the Association of Board Secretaries (ABS).

She presently serves as a trustee of JPMorgan Funds Board and is a member and past chair of The Chicago Network and a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. She previously served as a trustee of Carleton College and on the boards of the Mather Foundation, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, Metropolitan Family Services and the YMCA of Chicago.

The University will announce plans for succeeding leadership of Administration and Planning in the near future.