After more than four decades, DeLuca to retire

July 22, 2014

by Käri Knutson

Paul M. DeLuca Jr.

Paul M. DeLuca Jr. will retire as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs next month after a career spanning more than four decades at the university and countless contributions to campus. 

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For most of Paul M. DeLuca Jr.’s life, fall has signaled the beginning of a new school year.

But not this fall.

After more than four decades on campus, DeLuca will retire as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs on Aug. 4.

“I’m ready,” DeLuca says. “I just don't want to go to meetings. I don't want to sit on committees. If I feel like going for a long weekend in Chicago, I want to go without guilt.”

DeLuca’s mind is on improving his golf game. Traveling. And not checking the more than 30,000 emails he gets every year.

“Being provost is a wonderful position,” DeLuca says. “I think it’s an exceptionally difficult job but very rewarding.”

“Paul has been an extraordinary leader for UW–Madison. I will miss his wisdom, his passionate commitment to this university and his deep knowledge of campus.”

Rebecca Blank

DeLuca was appointed provost in June 2009 by then-UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin.

At UW-Madison, the provost serves as the lead academic official, helping to set and guide the university's academic missions of research and education.The provost works closely with the chancellor and with the deans of UW-Madison's 13 schools and colleges, and oversees programs for faculty and staff, diversity initiatives and enrollment management. The position also serves as the point official for shared governance. In the absence of the chancellor, the provost assumes the role of chief executive.

Sarah Mangelsdorf, dean of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, will be the new provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs starting Aug. 4.

During his tenure as provost, DeLuca has overseen a major leadership overhaul for the university — perhaps the largest in the institution's history — playing a lead role in the recruiting and hiring of 10 new deans and directors for various schools, colleges and institutes. Among those are the Colleges of Engineering, Letters and Science and Agricultural and Life Sciences, as well as the General Library System and the chief information officer for the university.

The Madison Initiative for Undergraduates (MIU), an effort to enhance and improve the quality of the undergraduate experience, also blossomed under DeLuca's watch with the hiring of a cadre of new faculty and staff in critical mission-driven areas.

“Paul has been an extraordinary leader for UW–Madison,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “He has been a trusted adviser and colleague for me and two previous chancellors. I will miss his wisdom, his passionate commitment to this university and his deep knowledge of campus. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his outstanding leadership over the past five years.”

“There’s essentially no intellectual endeavor that you might want to do that isn’t done to some degree on campus. If it’s not happening here, it probably isn’t worth talking about.”

Paul DeLuca

DeLuca has been instrumental in Educational Innovation, an initiative started by former Chancellor David Ward to customize the learning experience and find innovative ways of educating students.

Under DeLuca’s leadership, four pilot Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were offered last year with six scheduled for the coming year. MOOCs are unique, online delivery systems that allow people from around the globe to participate in free, noncredit learning experiences.

“That’s been a lot of fun. We’re just scratching the surface,” DeLuca says. “We need to help students accomplish more at their own pace and build a system so that kind of flexibility is available.”

DeLuca initiated and advanced Discovery to Product, or D2P, a major new partnership between UW–Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) focused on entrepreneurship and building on a long legacy of collaboration to move UW–Madison-inspired technology and innovation to market.

“The big goal is to transform our culture to better cultivate entrepreneurial and technology transfer activities on campus,” DeLuca said at the time of the partnership. “We have an incredibly productive and creative faculty, and we want to make it far easier for them to take good ideas from their research and transform them into Wisconsin companies and jobs.”

DeLuca arrived at UW-Madison as a postdoc in 1971, shortly after receiving his doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Notre Dame. In 1973, he became an assistant scientist in the Medical Physics Section of the Department of Radiology. He joined the faculty as an adjunct professor in 1974 and was named a full professor in 1985 in what is now called the Department of Medical Physics, a department he subsequently led for more than 10 years as chair. He also holds a faculty appointment in the Departments of Engineering Physics, Radiology and Human Oncology.

As a scholar, DeLuca is known for his studies on the effects of high-energy particle radiation on humans. He is the author or co-author of more than 75 research papers, many focusing on the various applications of physics to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. In addition, DeLuca has numerous technical reports, book chapters and other publications to his credit. As a teacher, he has supervised nearly 50 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows through graduate work or postdoctoral training.

DeLuca's years of work as an administrator helped shape UW-Madison's future. As vice dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, a position he held just before becoming provost, DeLuca was deeply involved in the development of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research (WIMR), a burgeoning biomedical research complex on the west campus. DeLuca helped form both the physical and intellectual underpinnings of WIMR, which seeks an innovative approach to treating human disease through synergistic interdisciplinary collaboration.

Paul M. DeLuca Jr. at 2011 Chancellor’s Convocation

DeLuca, shown addressing first-year students during the 2011 Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students, helped develop numerous campus initiatives, including MOOCs and MIU.

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Just because DeLuca is retiring doesn’t mean he won’t still be deeply connected on campus. DeLuca has numerous projects with colleagues lined up.

“I don’t want to lose touch completely,” DeLuca says. ”I just don't want to keep up the pace I have had for the past 40 years.”

DeLuca grew up in the small town of Endicott, N.Y. He remembers being intimidated by the size of the UW-Madison campus when he first came. But Madison quickly became home. Henry Mall, Observatory Drive, Picnic Point, the Terrace — all were favorite spots back then and still are today.

But one of his absolute favorite places is looking out his window of Bascom Hall.

“I’ve always liked that view whether I was provost’s chair or outside of the building,” DeLuca says.

It isn’t just the scenic beauty of campus that made UW-Madison feel like home. It’s the passion for learning that is so fundamentally part of the university.

“There’s essentially no intellectual endeavor that you might want to do that isn’t done to some degree on campus,” DeLuca says. “If it’s not happening here, it probably isn’t worth talking about.”

DeLuca hasn’t been afraid of challenges or change — a quality that has served him well.

“Being provost has given me a chance to touch every part of this institution,” DeLuca says. “And I’m a terrible tinkerer. Left to myself, I’ll change everything if left alone long enough — just for the sake of the fun of doing it in many cases. It’s not that what’s there is bad. I just have a compulsion to do something I think might be better.”

“I’m so used to running things, working with dozens of people and solving problems. I’ll miss that.”

Paul DeLuca

His workplace philosophy is simple: “Arrive early, stay late,” DeLuca says. “I keep the pedal to the metal.”

It hasn’t been all work­, though. DeLuca has made time for some fun, including helping promote the Bascom Hill "Directionality Plan" — which coincidentally was announced on April 1.

“I still have people come up to me and wonder, ‘What kind of fiend could do that?’” DeLuca says. “That was fun.”

He’s had season football tickets since 1991, rarely missing a game. Does he “Jump Around?”

“Of course,” DeLuca says. “You have to. It’s uniquely Wisconsin. I’ve taken friends from other institutions to the game and they’re completely flabbergasted.”

DeLuca will still be at the games. He’ll still be on campus. Just not at all the meetings. Not on all the committees.

He’ll enjoy the view from his office atop Bascom Hill for just a bit longer. And then it will be time for some golf.

“I’m so used to running things, working with dozens of people and solving problems,” DeLuca says. “I’ll miss that.”