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University of Illinois president resigns amid discord



This news story was published on March 23, 2012.
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By Jodi S. Cohen, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — When University of Illinois President Michael Hogan took over 20 months ago following an embarrassing scandal, his supporters championed him as a likable reformer who could stabilize the university.

On Thursday, he resigned after months of turmoil, a faculty mutiny and a fresh scandal in the president’s office that had left him so sidelined that people began to question not whether he would quit, but when.

His last day as president will be July 1, making him the second U. of I. president to resign under fire in less than three years. Robert Easter, who has been everything from a doctoral student to interim chancellor at the U. of I. for nearly four decades, will take over for at least two years.

The end of Hogan’s presidency came relatively quickly — just two weeks after trustees charged him with improving his fractured relationship with the faculty or risk losing his job. Hogan pledged to do better and said he was “optimistic” he could regain their trust. Top faculty disagreed, sending a second letter to the board asking for his “rapid and decisive termination.”

Last weekend, board of trustees chairman Christopher Kennedy met with Hogan in the president’s Chicago condominium, and Hogan told him he had decided it was best to resign. They discussed Easter taking over as the 19th president.

“Whatever he was doing in those 10 days, he arrived at that conclusion, that he wanted to resign,” said Kennedy, who was appointed to the board in 2009 after an admissions scandal. One of the board’s first significant actions was to hire Hogan.

“Mike Hogan accomplished almost everything that had been identified as important goals for the university when he was hired,” Kennedy said. He said Hogan was “absolutely not” a failed hire. “Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. What he did was good.”

In Thursday’s announcement, Kennedy said the university “owes (Hogan) a debt of gratitude for moving a number of tough, and sometimes unpopular, initiatives forward.”

Kennedy said Hogan’s accomplishments included $30 million in administrative cost savings and providing merit-based salary increases this year for the first time in three years. He also made a number of high-profile hires, including new chancellors in Urbana-Champaign and Springfield and a new vice president for the health system.

Hogan, 68, declined an interview request Thursday and said in a statement that it was “a distinct honor and privilege” to serve as president. He will assume a position as a tenured faculty member in the history department, and his new salary is expected to be voted on by trustees at a meeting Friday.

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