The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
UConn president to step down
Susan Herbst will teach on Stamford campus
University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst is leaving the helm of the state’s flagship university in a year but not the institution, it was announced Monday.
Herbst said she will return to teaching and on the UConn-Stamford campus.
The announcement comes with one year left on Herbst’s contract and less than a year before there is a new governor in the state.
It gives university officials a full year to find a replacement and the wheels appear to be in motion.
In a written statement, UConn Board Chairman Thomas Kruger said he is poised to appoint a broad-based committee this summer to begin a national search for UConn’s 16th president.
‘Pride’ of Connecticut
Lawrence D. McHugh, who served as board chairman from 2009 through 2017 said hiring Herbst was one of the most important and far-reaching decisions the board made.
“Her contributions have been powerful and lasting,” he said in a written statement. “She will be missed – and a tough act to follow.”
While Herbst built the university’s enrollment and stature, she also clashed in recent year with lawmakers who have been chipping away at its contribution to the university.
During the state budget crisis in 2017, Herbst went on the offensive saying a Republican plan to slash the UConn budget would “decimate” the state’s flagship university.
“UConn is among the finest research universities in the United States and the pride of the state of Connecticut, as it should be.” Susan Herbst
Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R-North Haven, fired back, saying Herbst should resign if the cuts suggested led to a branch closing.
“Over the years, President Herbst has shown an inability to properly manage UConn’s finances,” Fasano said at the time.
Fasano could not immediately be reached on Monday for comment. Herbst is said to be away and was not available on Monday for comment.
In a message sent to the university community, Herbst called it the right time for her and said despite financial struggles due to the state budget, the university has become a stronger, better university.
“UConn is among the finest research universities in the United States and the pride of the state of Connecticut, as it should be,” Herbst wrote.
Through Stephanie Reitz, a university spokeswoman, Herbst indicated that the decision to step down was completely voluntary.
“She chose this time to announce her decision so UConn could launch the search and select the next president before she leaves,” Reitz said.
Herbst, Reitz added, will return to teaching political science at UConn’s Stamford campus.
Burnishing the brand
The growth of the Stamford campus is on a long list of accomplishments, Herbst has compiled. In the fall of 2017 Stamford added a student residence hall, the only regional campus to do so. Also last fall, the Hartford campus moved to downtown from West Hartford.
Overall enrollment has grown in the past seven years to 32,027 this past fall, from 29,517 in 2010
Herbst also led major capital state investments in UConn, including Bioscience Connecticut, a $864 million initiative at UConn Health that allowed expansion and space for business incubators.
“Being able to lead this outstanding institution has been one of the great honors and privileges of my life,” she has said.
Herbst became UConn’s 15th and first woman president in December 2010. Her appointment had the support of both outgoing Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and incoming Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Malloy, in a statement, praised Herbst as someone who has been a transformative and visionary president.
“Although we’ll all be sad to see her go next year, she has left an indelible mark on the UConn community, and our state as a whole,” Malloy said.
The UConn’s Board of Trustees last voted to extend President Herbst’s contract for five years in 2014 giving her a package that started with a $585,000 salary that would increase by 5 percent annually, an annual $40,000 performance bonus, $80,000 in deferred compensation for each year of the contract, and a $38,000 supplemental retirement plan.
There were also two retention incentives included in the package, including $75,000 for serving until June 30, 2019.
The next president
The national search committee fore Herbst’s replacement will include faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees. Kruger will be its chair.
Kruger said he expects that a pool of candidates will be built over the summer months, with initial interviews taking place in the fall, followed by a second round of interviews and a final candidate picked by the end of 2018 or early in 2019.
UConn’s 16th president will begin next summer, once Herbst steps down.
Based on the timeline, the board will seek the support of both the outgoing and incoming governor, as the governor serves as an exofficio head of the trustees.
In a statement, state Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, thanked Herbst for giving the state time to plan for a replacement.
“... Because the candidates for governor and legislative seats, as well as the current UConn faculty, staff, and students, need to be thinking about the policies they would like to see implemented at UConn, and the type of person who would be best suited to the job,” Lavielle wrote in an email.