Thomas F. Schutte, Ph.D — the seemingly ageless leader of Pratt Institute — will be stepping down as president at the Clinton Hill art, architecture and design school following the 2016-17 academic year.
Schutte, whose 1993 arrival in Clinton Hill signaled a profound shift at Pratt, will assume the title of President Emeritus in July 2017, and remain active in the institution that has been transformed by his energetic leadership.
“The Schutte era will be remembered for a deep commitment to academic excellence, diversity, sustainability and fiscal stability, and greater impact within the borough of Brooklyn, across the nation, and around the world,” Bruce Gitlin, chairman of the Pratt Board of Trustees, said in a prepared statement.
According to Gitlin, the Pratt Trustees will form a committee composed of representatives of the Institute’s key constituencies to conduct a global search for Schutte’s successor.
When Schutte, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, arrived in Brooklyn, Pratt was at a crossroads. Established in 1887 by founder Charles Pratt as one of the country’s earliest schools of architecture and engineering, by 1993 it appeared that Pratt best years were in the past — as perhaps were the fortunes of the Institute’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, which had sunken into a state of decay, the result of years of neglect.
“When I came to Brooklyn over 20 years… Pratt [was] essentially a local commuter school,” Schutte said in a 2015 interview with Fort Greene Focus. “In 1993 we had about 2,700 mostly local and commuter students; now we have 4,700 students from around the globe, with 90 percent of our freshmen living on campus.”
The school’s revitalization is almost as stark as the change in the fortunes of its neighborhood. Pratt is now rated one of the country’s most prestigious design schools, while Clinton Hill is one of New York City’s most desirable places to live, work and study.
Among Schutte’s accomplishments are: the creation of the Pratt Sculpture Park, the opening of Pratt’s Manhattan campus, and the construction of five academic buildings. He also worked closely with Pratt faculty to raise the school’s academic standing to the top tier of U.S. art and design schools.
“Pratt is my home, and I’m thrilled that the Board has asked me to stay on and work on special projects,” Schutte said. “My wife Tess and I will remain deeply connected and committed to Pratt.”