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Trustees approve presidential search committee
Board hopes to name replacement for retiring Easter by January

March 6, 2014

URBANA, Ill. — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday approved creating a broad-based committee representing all major stakeholders across its three campuses to help guide a nationwide search for a new president.

The 19-member committee’s duties will include developing job qualifications and expectations for the new president, and then identifying and screening potential candidates to replace President Robert Easter, who will retire when his term ends on June 30, 2015.

Trustees will make the final decision and hope to name a replacement by January, which would allow the new president to start before Easter retires to ensure a smooth transition.

“This is truly one of the world’s premier universities, with a long history of excellence in education, research discovery and service to our state and nation,” said board Chairman Christopher Kennedy. “Our next president will advance our rich legacy, and our commitment to producing the 21st century workforce and innovation that are the keys to progress and economic growth.”

Search committee members will include three trustees; eight faculty members from the University’s three campuses; a student from each campus; a representative from the Alumni Association and one from the Foundation; an administrative officer; an academic professional; and a civil service representative.

Candidates will be recommended to the board by campus peer groups, such as faculty Senates and student government organizations, and trustees expect to appoint members of the Search Committee to Assist in the Selection of a President by May.

The committee’s assignments will include developing a white paper outlining the structure and mission of the University, the role of the president, challenges and expectations that the new president may face, and personal qualifications necessary for the position.

Key qualifications in past presidential searches include experience in leading and managing a large, complex academic organization with multiple campuses and a major medical center; a commitment to excellence in teaching, research, public engagement and economic development; the ability to communicate with the University’s internal and external constituencies; an understanding of the changing nature of higher education; and the ability to adapt to changing and challenging fiscal environments.

The president is the chief executive officer of the more than 78,000-student University and reports to the Board of Trustees. Chancellors lead the University’s three campuses in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign, and report to the president.

Easter became the University’s 19th president on July 1, 2012, after 36 years as a faculty member and top administrator on the Urbana-Champaign campus. He first came to the University of Illinois in 1973 as a graduate student, and earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. He joined the faculty that same year, and later served as head of the Department of Animal Science, as dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences from 2002 to 2009, and as interim chancellor of the Urbana campus from 2009 to 2011.

Health-care reorganization

Trustees approved a health-care reorganization plan that will align clinical and academic enterprises at the University of Illinois at Chicago under a single umbrella to enhance patient care, teaching and research.

The board endorsed the framework of the reorganization in November, and gave final approval Thursday after Easter provided implementation plans addressing details such as lines of authority, job descriptions and other organizational issues.

Clinical and academic units currently operate independently. Deans of UIC’s seven health-related colleges and schools report to the UIC provost, while the University of Illinois Hospital and clinics in Chicago are administered by a University-level vice president for health affairs.

The realignment will eliminate the vice president’s position and create a vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC, who will oversee the new, unified organization and report to the UIC chancellor. Chancellors at each of the University’s three campuses report to the president, who will continue a leadership role in health affairs through regular meetings with the new vice chancellor, UIC’s chancellor and provost, and the University’s chief financial officer.

Integrating teaching and research into clinical care will create opportunities for collaborations among academic units in real-world clinical settings, officials say, fostering innovation to improve patient care.

A unified enterprise with common goals and a single administrator will also will make the University’s health-care operations more nimble and efficient amid rapid changes in U.S. health care, officials say.

The reorganization will be fully implemented when the new vice chancellor is hired, expected by early 2015. Clinical and academic units will maintain their current lines of authority in the meantime, and ongoing efforts to transform the University’s health-care enterprise will continue.

Capital projects

The board also approved several measures that will advance construction and building renovation projects on the Urbana campus. The board approved:

  • Contracts totaling nearly $90 million for the second phase of renovation work at State Farm Center. The $165 million project will add luxury suites, expand the hall’s useable floor space to accommodate larger conventions and entertainment programs through a switch from fixed seating to retractable seating, and install air conditioning to allow for year-round sports and entertainment programming. Work is expected to be completed in November 2016, with a stoppage for the 2014-15 basketball season.
  • Design plans for a new Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, an innovation and testing center that will bridge the gap from basic discovery in crop sciences to commercialization of next-generation biofuels, chemicals and food sources. The board also approved a $1.7 million increase in the project budget, to $24.9 million. The State Capital Development Board will pay nearly $23 million toward the new building, which is expected to be completed in the spring of 2016.
  • Renovation plans for Everitt Laboratory, which will become the new home of the Department of Bioengineering. The proposed $50 million project would renovate more than 125,000 square feet for instruction and research, and would be funded in part through a grant from the Grainger Foundation. Work is scheduled to begin in May 2016, and is expected to be completed by May 2018.
  • A $1.9 million increase in the project budget for renovations and an addition to the Chemistry Annex Building, which will provide state-of-the-art laboratory instructional space for undergraduate chemistry students. The increase will support sustainability goals and cover late-identified construction costs. The $24.8 million project is currently underway, and work is expected to be completed in the summer of 2016.
  • A $3.4 million increase in the project budget for renovation of the Natural History Building, covering costs such as furniture, fixtures, equipment and data networking systems. The $73.4 million project will modernize the historic building, which was built in 1892 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Structural problems forced the University to close almost half of the building in 2010 and move offices, labs and classrooms. The project is expected to be completed in August 2016.
  • Contracts totaling more than $45 million toward construction of a new residence hall in the Stanley O. Ikenberry Commons. The $80 million project will build a new residence hall in the current location of Forbes Hall. Construction is scheduled to begin in May, and is expected to be completed in May 2016.
  • Renovation plans for the Surveying Building, which will provide state-of-the-art study and research facilities to accommodate growth of the College of Business. The $8 million project will be funded in part through a $4 million gift from the Irwin Family Foundation, and the board also approved renaming the building as the Irwin Center for Doctoral Study in Business. The gift honors the memory of Richard D. Irwin, a 1926 U of I graduate and founder of the publishing house of Richard D. Irwin Inc. (now Dow Jones-Irwin Inc.), and his wife, Anne Marie Irwin. Construction is scheduled to begin in July 2015, and is expected to be completed in June 2016.


The University of Illinois is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 78,000 students, more than 23,000 faculty and staff, and campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.