University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof says he wants to return to Texas. He's resigning after five years at the university to become chancellor of the University of Texas System.
The University of Minnesota hired Mark Yudof as president in 1997, luring him from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was executive vice president and provost. He'd previously served there as the law school dean and an assistant professor.
Yudof says recent funding setbacks at the state Legislature and troubles within athletic programs were not factors in leaving Minnesota. He says the decision was intensely personal for him and his wife Judy.
"I think in the end I made the decision with Judy because Texas is where we lived for 26 years. It's where I started as an assistant professor of law. It's where I made friends and Judy made friends. It's where we raised our children and they grew up, and it's where I have family and many other friends," he said.
Yudof was a candidate for the same Texas job two years ago, but dropped out. He says he had not been in Minnesota long enough to leave.
During his five years in Minnesota, Yudof initiated a massive construction and renovation effort on the Twin Cities campus, revived the medical school and put new emphasis on undergraduate education and graduation rates. He also headed the U of M's largest ever fundraising campaign. Yudof says he accomplished most of what he set out to do, but admits he leaves much work undone.
"It's a little like painting the Brooklyn Bridge. By the time you've finished, you have to start all over again. And there's no such thing - when you're a major research university - as saying you're finished," said Yudof.
As chancellor of the University of Texas, Yudof will oversee a 15-campus system with 160,000 students, 85,000 employees and an annual operating budget of $6.4 billion.
University of Texas regents began their search last year after Chancellor R.D. Burck announced he would step down by September 2003. Charles Miller, chairman of the Board of Regents, says Yudof fit all the search criteria.
"He's a brilliant man...very smart, very hard working, energetic. He has a distinguished academic background. The administrative posts he's had, those in Texas and those in Minnesota, he's been very successful. I think that he a proven administrator, and I've read that in the press in Minnesota and seen what he's done here. So he is an excellent manager and an excellent communicator, and he's done that in a variety of ways," says Miller.
Under Texas law, university regents must wait a minimum of 21 days after naming a finalist before they can make the appointment. Miller estimates Yudof's salary will be $600,000, plus benefits. His Minnesota salary is $350,000. He says he expects Yudof will begin his new duties by the end of summer.
"Once somebody make a decision like that, moving on for everybody works better. It makes it possible for where he's leaving to get on with their activities and make changes. And then for us - the leader - everybody waits for and is ready to see what that person wants to do," Miller says.
Student leaders at the University of Minnesota say Yudof's departure is a big loss. Joshua Colburn, student body president of the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, credits Yudof for making the university a better place. He says he's worried his successor won't be as effective.
"We're going to have some time when they have...to get used to the position. They need to feel it out and decide what changes they want to make. And that's going to be down time for the university - where we're not going to be able to respond to things as quickly as possible, and that's going to be less productive than it has been," says Colburn.
Maureen Reed, chairwoman of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, says she's also disappointed with Yudof's decision, but she's promising the momentum of the past five years will not be lost.
"The board will not sit. We won't rest back. The only direction we are going is up. We like up. We got used to up with President Yudof here at the university," she says.
Reed says an orderly transition will take place over the next three months. She says the board of regents will soon name an interim president, then launch an intensive search for Yudof's replacement. Reed says the next president of the U of M will be grateful for the foundation Yudof helped put in place.More from MPR