Global Vice President Greg Jones stepping down for health reasons

✔✔✔✔ Fact Checker here. Breaking news.

Scroll down for another major story: construction problems in Kunshan may lead to delay in opening.

Duke University has announced that after less than a year on the job, Greg Jones is leaving his post as vice president for global strategy and programs because of unspecified health reasons.

Dr. Michael Merson, who was recruited from Yale to found the Duke Global Health Institute in 2006, will serve as interim vice president.

The departure of Jones is another major jolt to Duke's international ambitions, coming just after the refusal of the Fuqua Business School faculty to approve two degree granting programs in Kunshan, China. That rebuke of the leadership of President Brodhead, Provost Lange and Fuqua Dean Blair Sheppard cast a pall over the most ambitious of Duke's international initiatives.

Jones functioned on several levels: from conceiving places for Duke to land in its world-wide thrust, to developing relationships that might make it happen. All that is now lost.

✔ His departure also removes one of the few alumni in a top leadership position in the Brodhead Administration. Jones holds a Master of Divinity and Ph.D. from Duke. He was an undergraduate at the University of Denver.

FC believes the only remaining member of President Brodhead's cabinet with a Duke degree is the principal spokesman Michael Schoenfeld '84. (Any Loyal Reader with additional information, please write us)

The announcement from the university is curious for two reasons:

First, because the press release came from Schoenfeld, vice president for PR, personally and not from the news bureau. It begins by talking about Merson's interim appointment, not mentioning Jones until the second paragraph. The news release is also imbalanced, stressing Merson's achievements in six long paragraphs while relegating Jones to perfunctory mention. Schoenfeld does not make mistakes of that nature.

Second, an international search for Jones' full time successor won't start until September. There is no explanation for the delay

✔ Jones has maintained a heavy world-wide travel schedule since moving into the vice presidency after 13 years as Dean of the Divinity School. In his initial months, he went to Kunshan, to Singapore where Duke runs a medical school with the National University, to India, to South Africa, to Brazil, and that's just the list FC was able to compile with the help of a mole in the center of Allen Building.

Jones seemed to relish both the hard work and the spotlight. He will go on research leave for a year, and then return to the Divinity School faculty.

In addition to being the point guard as Duke reached around the globe, Jones also took much of the heat on campus from people skeptical of grandiose ambitions. He briefed the faculty's elected senate, for example, telling the Academic Council what was taking place. Later Brodhead tried to portray these sessions as consultation with the faculty.

In one briefing after Shanghai Jiao Tong University withdrew as our partner in Kunshan -- a relationship required by Chinese law -- Jones, pressed to act quickly and find a substitute, listed three potential partners. By process of elimination, he seemed to identify Yuhan University -- which became our new partner -- as "weak." He has never confirmed nor denied this.

In commenting about his appointment, with specific reference to Kunshan, Jones told Duke Magazine, "... anytime that something like this doesn’t work, you take a reputational hit. Once we establish a commitment that we’re going to be engaged somewhere, it becomes incumbent on us to do everything possible to make sure that it will work effectively—that it will work at a level that not only meets Duke’s current standards of quality but enhances Duke’s reputation for the long term.”

That's a good goal, and to be sure, Jones ends his work on Kunshan far short, surrounded by question marks and doubts not of his making.

In a brief interview with the Durham Morning Herald, Merson made a mistake in his first day on the job, which was Monday. "We are certainly committed to (Kunshan)," he said. "It's definitely part of Duke's global research initiative, an important part of our global strategy." The good doctor turned vice president should have said we will take a new look at the folly of Kunshan, top to bottom, and not be afraid to cancel the deal.


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