Founding dean Daniel Huttenlocher will depart Cornell Tech, stepping down from the fledgling college just one week after tech giant Amazon announced it was ditching its plans for a New York City headquarters.
Huttenlocher, who will depart Aug. 1, served as Cornell Tech’s founding dean since 2012. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate will return to his alma mater to assume the position of inaugural dean of the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, an initiative announced last October.
Working for Cornell University since 1988, Huttenlocher was appointed to Amazon’s board of directors in September 2016. Huttenlocher has served on the board since, a time during which Amazon announced — and then retracted — plans to house its second headquarters in New York City.
As vice provost of Cornell Tech, Huttenlocher recused himself from Amazon’s headquarters search, President Martha Pollack told The Sun. One of the company’s ten directors, he currently sits on the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee.
“Although I have no insights into the Amazon board, it seems like it’s very likely that Cornell Tech is one of the reasons that [New York City] is such an attractive site,” Pollack told The Sun the day after the company’s November announcement that it planned to construct in New York City.
Huttenlocher also sits on the board of Corning Incorporated, alongside fellow Amazon board member and chair of Corning, Wendell Weeks.
In August, Huttenlocher will leave Roosevelt Island for Boston, to head the new College of Computing, which MIT President L. Rafael Reif called “an ambitious experiment.” MIT said it searched for “educational creativity” and “industry experience” for its founding dean — traits presumably found in soon-to-be-former founding dean of Cornell Tech, Huttenlocher.
Next week, MIT will host a three-day celebratory event in Cambridge for the new college; Huttenlocher is not scheduled to speak.
A spokesperson for Cornell Tech declined to comment on Huttenlocher’s departure. The spokesperson also declined to comment on any potential search process for a new dean.
“Dan has done a remarkable job situating Cornell Tech for future growth, and we are in a tremendous position to attract the next visionary leader of Cornell Tech,” Pollack said in a University press release Thursday. “We congratulate Dan on this exciting new opportunity at his alma mater.”
Huttenlocher’s contributions include chairing the 1998 task force that created Cornell’s interdisciplinary Faculty of Computing and Information Science.
In 2016, Huttenlocher said he’d “be lucky if I’m alive when [Cornell Tech is] completely built out,” in an update at the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce. At the meeting, Huttenlocher projected that the Roosevelt Island campus would be fully populated by the “mid- to late-2040s.”
More than a year and a half later, Huttenlocher noted that the population of the Cornell Tech campus was small, outnumbered by nearly any individual science or engineering department at the Ithaca campus.
“We are trying to punch way, way, way above our weight,” he said in December 2017, three months after Cornell Tech officially moved into New York. “We’re focused on digital technology and societal economic impact, with a focus on that impact in New York, [and] regionally and nationally as well.”
In an email Thursday to students, staff and faculty, Huttenlocher said, “When I take a step back to look at what we are creating together at Cornell Tech I am simply amazed.”
The MIT college is scheduled to open in September. The University has not announced a search for a new dean for Cornell Tech.