Office of the President

Statement by UW System Board of Regents President Michael J. Falbo

July 30, 2013

Good afternoon.

Kevin and I go back a long way. In fact, it was at my very first Board meeting, back in 2004, that the Regents approved Kevin Reilly as President of the UW System. Since then, he has proven himself to be an outstanding leader, with vision and fortitude through some very interesting times.

I think I speak for Regents and Chancellors, past and present, when I say that Kevin Reilly has done a terrific job leading this institution. The challenges have been formidable, but he has met every one with intelligence, grace, integrity, common sense, a great sense of humor… and the occasional poem.

It has been a great privilege to work with Kevin, and on behalf of the members of our university community, I want to thank him for his exemplary service and extreme dedication to the UW System.

Kevin may be stepping down … but what I will most remember is someone who stepped up on so many occasions when it really counted.

He led the charge to reaffirm the essential value of a unified university System, while also fighting for more flexibility in the way that individual campuses are managed. With the Regents, Kevin championed the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, a strategic plan to make Wisconsin stronger. And through thick and thin, he never forgot – or let anyone else forget – that students are the reason we’re all here. Students come first.

Kevin has already touched on a few highlights from his time here, but I’d like to add a few more:

  • He mentioned the record college enrollments. I’m here to remind you that those record numbers came in an era of the largest state budget cuts in the UW’s history – demonstrating our shared commitment to cost efficiencies and maintaining our reputation as one of the most productive and lean systems of higher education in the United States.

  • At the same time, we have been able to hold tuition below many of our peer universities, while more than tripling the privately-raised, need-based financial aid available to students.

  • In the past year, we unveiled the first-ever UW Economic Development Strategic Plan that will highlight, accelerate, and expand the university’s vital role in growing the economy and jobs.

  • Another highlight has particular meaning for me. In 2006, Kevin joined the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs in supporting expansion of the Wisconsin G.I. Bill. Since then, the UW System has continued to demonstrate its support for veterans, launching a new web portal in 2010, and a mobile-enabled version in 2012.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Kevin has looked to the future, not just his own, but that of the UW System. It was last fall when we had our first conversations about planning for his presidential transition. Since then, we have worked methodically – and in a way that makes the former bank president in me proud – to effect a smooth changing of the guard.

Over the next few weeks, we will move ahead with the next steps in that process. I will appoint a search committee and it is my hope to have the next President selected sometime in the spring of 2014. We will search the nation for the best possible candidate to fill this critical position, because it will take an extraordinary individual to follow in President Reilly’s footsteps.

In the meantime, I look forward to working with Kevin as we continue to focus on keeping the UW System strong, competitive, and serving our state’s citizens.

I recognize that Kevin has been offered an exceptional opportunity with the American Council on Education. That organization will surely benefit from his wisdom and experience, as will all the future Presidents, Provosts, and Deans who enroll in the leadership development programs Kevin will be involved with.

I know this because we have benefited from his wisdom and experience over the years. UW System will miss his steady hand at the helm.

On that note, I’d like to thank Kevin on behalf of the Board of Regents, our faculty, staff, and System administration, and most of all the thousands of students who have been, are, and will be part of the UW System family. It has been a pleasure serving with you.