Obama taps president of Dartmouth as new head of World Bank

President Obama said Friday he “could not be more pleased” to nominate Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank.

“I do not think that the World Bank could have a better leader,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, accompanied by the Ivy League president and global health expert.

Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama hailed Kim’s lengthy work on improving health in developing nations.

In particular, Obama keyed in on Kim’s efforts to fight HIV/AIDS across the world, calling it “a cornerstone of my development effort.”

“I’m pleased that Jim brings this particular experience with him to his new job,” he said.

Kim has served as the head of Dartmouth College since 2009. A physician and anthropologist born in South Korea, Kim has spent much of his life focusing on improving health in developing countries. He is the co-founder of Partners in Health, a global health advocacy organization, and previously served as the director of the Department of HIV/Aids at the World Health Organization.

The announcement comes on the second anniversary of Obama's signing of his healthcare reform law, and on the eve of his trip to South Korea.

Kim's selection is a bit of a surprise, as his name was not one of those mentioned in media reports leading up to the nomination. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and even Microsoft head Bill Gates were among the names reportedly under consideration. Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) were also subjects of speculation, although both publicly denied interest in the position.

Kim's tenure at Dartmouth has been somewhat rocky, as he has faced criticism from the student body for, among other things, failing to release a college budget or adequately address an ongoing hazing scandal at one of the school's fraternities.

The United States is the largest contributor to the World Bank, meaning Kim is all but assured to take over as head of the organization. By long-standing convention, a European typically heads the International Monetary Fund, while the World Bank's top spot is reserved for an American.

Kim is set to take over as head of the World Bank after its existing director, Robert Zoellick, announced his plans to leave the organization at the end of June. Obama praised Zoellick for his work at the bank, noting that he made the institution more transparent and helped raise billions of dollars to assist developing nations.

—This story was posted at 9:15 a.m. and updated at 10:42 a.m.