Board Statement on the Retirement of President Francis J. Ricciardone

June 21, 2020 

President Francis Ricciardone has given Chairman Richard Bartlett notice of his decision to retire from the presidency in June 2021. The Board expresses its profound gratitude for his commitment to lead the University through the extraordinarily challenging year ahead.

The Board commends President Ricciardone for leading AUC to a far stronger position than he found on arrival. He has succeeded with discipline and skill in addressing the several institutional challenges the Board had set as priorities four years ago, including revising the Faculty Handbook and updating the University’s protocol with the Government of Egypt.  

The Board further cites with gratitude President Ricciardone’s guidance through profound external crises that have arisen during his term. Shortly after he assumed AUC’s leadership, the Egyptian pound lost half its value overnight. He committed the University to preventing the loss of any student due to financial hardships and met that commitment. His dedication to attracting the most talented students to AUC, regardless of need, resulted in several new externally funded scholarship funds. The most recent example is a $36 million award from USAID that will bring to AUC over the coming decade 700 Egyptian students, many with special needs, in partnership with six leading Egyptian national universities.

Today, the University faces another external crisis brought on by the global coronavirus pandemic, and the Trustees are especially grateful for President Ricciardone’s skilled leadership in both navigating the immediate challenges and ensuring a long-term view. His willingness to continue to lead the University through this public health emergency underpins our confidence that AUC will define the meaning of educational excellence into the post-COVID-19 world. 

President Ricciardone’s relentless focus on optimizing the University’s management processes has enabled the University to control costs while delivering services at levels unmatched in Egypt and the region. The Board approved at its recent meeting his recommendation for a balanced budget for the upcoming year to strengthen the sustainability of the unique experience that defines AUC. 

President Ricciardone also has led AUC through joyful celebration: The University’s centennial commemoration began with the ceremonial opening of the new Tahrir Cultural Center, which he and a visionary philanthropist worked to establish as the focal point for the revival of a vibrant international arts scene in the heart of Cairo. His tireless energy, spontaneity and confidence in AUC sustained a full year of wide-ranging commemorative events, culminating in forward-looking festivities at the New Cairo campus in February. These set the stage for the launch of a community-based planning process to imagine the continued development of our campus for AUC’s second century of service to Egypt. 

The Trustees wish particularly to acknowledge our President and fellow Trustee for his personal generosity to the University, which began with the donation of his first AUC paycheck. Further gifts by him and his wife, Dr. Marie Ricciardone, place them in the top ranks among AUC Trustee donors during his tenure. Their focus has been on enabling and inspiring American students to come to AUC to “discover Egypt.” He encouraged others, including donors, alumni, administrators and faculty, to join in giving to the University, most recently to offset the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency. AUC is fortunate that this passionate booster of AUC and of Egypt, of distinguished international reputation, remains committed with the rest of the Board to a successful completion of the centennial campaign, in the face of exceptionally challenging global economic circumstances. 

Finally, the Board acknowledges the personal sacrifice of family separation which he and Dr. Marie Ricciardone had accepted while international travel was safe and routinely available. The Board recognizes the role that this sacrifice played in Frank’s decision to curtail his second term, and expresses its gratitude to both him and Marie for their continued dedication to his service. 

The Board shares the confidence and optimism of President Ricciardone and his fine administration team as AUC continues to face the pandemic’s historic challenges in the year ahead.