The 72-year-old Steiner said in a statement that he would leave by the end of the 2005-06 academic year or sooner, if NEC can find a replacement quickly. He has suffered from a chronic lung disease for several years.
Steiner is NEC's first non-musician president. After graduating from Harvard Law School, he practiced law and worked in government. In 1969, he became secretary of Harvard's University Committee on Governance; he spent the next 27 years at the university, as general counsel, vice president, and lecturer in public policy. He became a member of the board of NEC in 1995 and was named acting president in 1999.
During his tenure, NEC created a joint-degree program with Harvard and a chamber music training program, boosted financial aid, and hired such faculty members as violinist Donald Weilerstein, violist Kim Kashkashian, pianist Bruce Brubaker, jazz saxophonist Steve Lacy, and flutist Paula Robison. Steiner has raised $65 million over the last two years as part of a $100 million capital campaign.
"My six years as president have been very happy ones for me," Steiner said. "I have had the privilege of working with a remarkable faculty and staff who have made NEC the outstanding institution it is today."