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Widener University’s president will leave the school to join Penn’s faculty next year

Julie E. Wollman, a Philadelphia native, will become a professor of practice of higher education at Penn’s Graduate School of Education.

Widener president Julie E. Wollman will leave next summer to teach at the University of Pennsylvania.
Widener president Julie E. Wollman will leave next summer to teach at the University of Pennsylvania.Read moreED HILLE / Staff Photographer

The president of Widener University said Wednesday that she will depart next summer and join the University of Pennsylvania, where she will help prepare future college leaders.

Julie E. Wollman, 61, a Philadelphia native, will have led Chester-based Widener for six years when she retires from the presidency next June.

Wollman said the last 16 months have been exhausting and led her to realize she would like to teach now, when she has a lot of energy, rather than wait.

“It’s something I want to spend the last decade or two of my career doing,” she said. “I’ll have the opportunity to teach and mentor the next generation of senior leaders.”

Widener wasn’t the only local university to announce a leadership change Wednesday. Ursinus College in Collegeville said its president, Brock Blomberg, who has led the school since 2015, will leave Sept. 1 to become president of the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.

“This opportunity provides a chance to return to the West Coast, where I look forward to laying down new roots with my fiancee, Nikki, and our extended family,” Blomberg wrote in a message to the campus.

Wollman, who got her bachelor’s from Harvard and her doctorate from New York University, will become a professor of practice in higher education at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, where she got a master’s degree. The school has educated 60 future college presidents or chancellors over the last two decades.

Pam Grossman, the Dean of Penn’s School of Education, cited Wollman’s “tremendous experience and an entrepreneurial spirit” in announcing her appointment, effective next July.

» READ MORE: A new president at Lafayette adds to a flurry of leadership changes

At Widener, Wollman started the Common Ground Initiative, which encourages respectful dialogue among people with different views and is designed to reduce polarization. She also appointed the university’s first full-time diversity officer and offered reduced tuition to employees of the city of Chester.

She teaches inmates at the State Correctional Institution in Chester. And she saw integrated health sciences programs as potential growth areas, launching or planning programs in occupational therapy, for physician assistants, speech language pathology, and nutrition.

“Julie Wollman has been a dedicated president who has worked thoughtfully and purposefully to strengthen Widener,” Paul Beideman, chair of Widener’s board of trustees, said in a statement.

Before Widener, Wollman was president of Edinboro University in Erie County, one of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities and among six slated for mergers next year if approved by the board next month. She previously worked at Wheelock College and Worcester State University, both in Massachusetts.