Nicholas School Dean Alan Townsend to Step Down

November 7, 2016

Contact: Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084, and Scottee Cantrell, 919/613-8074,

DURHAM, N.C. – Alan Townsend, dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has announced that he is resigning as dean and returning to a faculty position at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Jeffrey Vincent, Clarence F. Korstian Professor of Forest Economics and Management, has been serving as interim dean since Townsend took a leave of absence for personal reasons in August.
Duke Provost Sally J. Kornbluth said that Vincent will continue to lead the school in that post until a new dean is named for the Nicholas School. A search will get underway in Fall 2017.
“President Brodhead and I want to thank Alan for his exceptional service to the school under very trying personal circumstances. Jeff has been very generous in stepping up to take on the role of interim dean and already has moved ahead on strategic planning that will lay a solid foundation for the school going forward and for the next dean,” Kornbluth said.
Vincent, who formerly served as chair of the Nicholas School’s Division of Environmental Science and Policy, and is currently co-chair of the Master of Forestry program, is widely cited for his research and teaching on forest finance and the economics of natural resource management and policy. He consults regularly with the World Bank and other international organizations, and has directed or worked on international projects in Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
Townsend became dean in July 2014. Prior to his arrival, he served on the faculty at the University of Colorado.
During his tenure at the Nicholas School, he set up the format to begin the school’s strategic planning process and review its divisional structure. He also worked to get the school on sound financial footing.
“I came to Duke with high hopes and deeply humbled by the chance to lead the Nicholas School, and am proud of all we accomplished together – and it was together – over the past two years,” Townsend said in an email. “But as you all know, life changed tragically for my family, and that means my own path must change as well. Put most simply, giving the school and Duke everything you deserve from a dean would cut too much into my ability to give my children what they need in the next phase of their lives, and I am not willing to compromise either them or the school.”