UW System President Katharine Lyall announces retirement
|Lyall plans to retire at the end of the
MADISON—University of Wisconsin System President Katharine
C. Lyall announced her retirement at a press conference in Madison
on Feb. 4, marking the end of one of the longest and most productive
presidencies in the history of the UW System.
Lyall, 62, said she would stay until her replacement arrives or
until Sept. 1, 2004, at the latest. In September, Lyall, an economist,
will begin a year’s appointment as a visiting senior scholar
at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Palo
“It has been extremely exciting to lead the world’s
best university system and a great privilege to serve the people
of Wisconsin in that role,” Lyall said. “I leave with
a great sense of pride in all we have accomplished, especially in
the more than 300,000 students who have graduated from our four-year
campuses during my tenure.”
Lyall was named president of the UW System in April of 1992 after
serving for eight months as acting president, replacing Kenneth
(Buzz) Shaw who went on to become chancellor of Syracuse University.
She served as executive vice president for five years under Shaw,
having come to the UW System as vice president for academic affairs
and professor of economics from The Johns Hopkins University in
“Our university community cannot thank her enough for what
she’s accomplished, including putting virtually all our current
UW leadership in place,” noted Toby Marcovich, president of
the UW System Board of Regents. “She has led the UW with wisdom,
integrity, wit, common sense and a wonderful collaborative spirit
and our campuses are the richer for it.
“I know she had hoped to retire a year ago, and I appreciate
that she was willing to stay on this year to help our regents chart
a future course for the UW and prepare for the 2005-07 state budget
process,” Marcovich said.
Lyall’s tenure has been marked by many
firsts and financial milestones.
During her presidency, UW System sources of revenue diversified;
though the university’s state budget grew $200 million, its
budget from other sources more than doubled to $2.3 billion annually.
This growth enabled new majors and programs, growth in research,
including at the undergraduate level, new study-abroad programs,
and many new campus facilities. She also cheered the Badgers through
several Rose Bowl wins during her presidency.
“Wisconsin has no more skillful,
accomplished or dedicated public servant than Katharine Lyall.”
—Wisconsin Governor James Doyle
Lyall became the first woman ever to serve as UW System president.
Her 12-year term as president represents one of the longest tenures
of any university system president in modern times. The average
tenure in such posts nationally is now less than five years.
During her presidency, the university forged new partnerships with
Wisconsin’s technical colleges and K-12 community, helped
to revitalize the university’s 13 two-year campuses, instituted
many technological innovations including online courses and degrees,
and instituted the first annual accountability “report card”
to citizens, measuring progress in important areas like access to
the university, graduation rates, retention rates and progress toward
achieving a more diverse student population.
“Wisconsin has no more skillful, accomplished or dedicated
public servant than Katharine Lyall,” noted Wisconsin Governor
James Doyle in a prepared statement.
“I have known her and worked with her for more than a decade,
and she has my deepest respect and gratitude for her contributions,
including her work to highlight the state’s economic development
needs and to put the university to work addressing them.”
At a February meeting of his Economic Growth Council, Governor
Doyle and members of the Council presented Lyall with a plaque in
recognition of her many contributions to improving the state’s
economy. Among other accomplishments, the plaque cited President
Lyall’s service on numerous state task forces and councils
dealing with the state’s economy, including Governor Doyle’s
Economic Growth Council, Governor Thompson’s Blue Ribbon Commission
on 21st Century Jobs (chair), the International Women’s Forum,
Forward Wisconsin and Competitive Wisconsin.
Lyall made economic development a high priority for the university
and its 15 institutions in recent years, sponsoring four annual
economic summits since 2000 and garnering state and federal funding
to establish new majors in high demand fields, to provide assistance
to small businesses and to energize regional economic development.
President Toby E. Marcovich of Superior reflects on Lyall's
tenure as president.
“President Lyall recognized that the economic vitality of
the state is critical to its public system of higher education and
thus the quality of life of its citizens,” said former UW
Board of Regents president Jay L. Smith, who led the four summits
with Lyall. “During her tenure, President Lyall moved the
pride of Wisconsin in its university system to a new level of excellence.”
Many credit Lyall for helping the UW’s collection of 15
institutions evolve into a much more collaborative and interdependent
system during the past dozen years. These include joint admission
and degree programs in which campuses partner together and new shared
administrative and personnel systems that are under development.
“She took what had been a system on paper and made it a system
in reality,” Smith said. “That is a credit not only
to her leadership, but also to the campus and system leaders she
Lyall’s tenure also had many challenges with sharp state
budget cutbacks in the mid-1990s and again, over the past two years.
She responded by streamlining the university’s bureaucracy,
downsizing the UW System staff and making UW the most efficient
university system in the United States, for which she has been recognized
by other higher education leaders.
President Emeritus Guy Gottschalk of Wisconsin Rapids thanks
Lyall for her service and dedication to the UW System.
“She has confronted many challenges over her long tenure,
but her legacy will be a University of Wisconsin System that is
stronger and closer to the people of Wisconsin than ever before,”
said former University of Illinois and American Council on Education
President Stanley Ikenberry. “She has chosen to exit the stage
at the pinnacle of a truly outstanding performance.”
Said former UW-Madison Chancellor and Health and Human Services
Secretary Donna Shalala: “Katharine Lyall is one of higher
education’s most gifted leaders. Wisconsin has been lucky
to reap the rewards of that leadership. She has significantly increased
the quality of the System’s institutions.
“Her integrity, high intelligence and good humor will be
hard to replace,” said Shalala, now president of the University
“I think it’s fair to say that many of us cannot yet
envision the University of Wisconsin System without President Lyall
at the helm,” said Regent President Marcovich in Wednesday’s
press conference announcing Lyall’s decision. “We appreciate
her willingness to help us achieve a smooth transition of leadership.”
Marcovich said he will put the presidential search on a fast track,
appointing a search-and-screen committee within the next few weeks
with the goal of having the Board of Regents name a successor to
Lyall by June of 2004.
“Looking forward, the UW System now faces new challenges,”
Lyall said. “Through ‘Charting a New Course,’
the Board, chancellors, faculty, staff and students are redefining
the role of public higher education in an era of shifting public
priorities and public financial support. The result will set a blueprint
for the UW System’s future. This is an appropriate time for
new energy and fresh leadership of the System.”
on President Lyall's retirement