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President Austin stepping down

by Karen A. Grava - January 16, 2007

University President Philip E. Austin has announced that he plans to resign the presidency in September and, following a sabbatical, return to teaching as a tenured member of the economics faculty.

"UConn has an ambitious agenda for the years ahead and I believe that now is an appropriate time to recruit a new president who can see many of our important ventures to completion," Austin said in a letter to the University community.

Austin completed 10 years as president last fall.

He said he joined UConn "at a moment when the University was primed for movement into the top ranks of American public higher education.

"At the heart of our progress are extraordinary faculty and staff who have made UConn a center of scholarship and service, and have recruited and nurtured a talented, ambitious student body," Austin said.

The president's decision was met with regret by Dr. John W. Rowe, chairman of the Board of Trustees.

He told Austin: "Your distinguished leadership has been truly transformational, and your legacy will surely be one of the greatest in the history of the University."

In a letter to the community, Rowe said, "The achievements of the Austin era position UConn to attract another great leader who can guide the University along our continued path to true national leadership."

Rowe said he will establish a search committee this month and begin a national search for a new president.

Austin arrived at the University in 1996, just as UConn 2000 began.

In addition to overseeing the $1 billion construction and renovation program, he also led the drive for phase two of the program - the $1.3 billion 21st Century UConn.

  The physical transformation also led to improvements in the quality of both the undergraduate program and the students.

During Austin's tenure, the University completed a capital campaign, with more than $425 million raised.

Said Rowe, "We will find fitting ways to thank Phil for his contributions well before he steps down from the presidency next September."  

Reflections on a decade of Austin’s leadership

"President Austin has been a strong leader in a time of amazing transformation. We have been fortunate to have his ability to work with so many different University constituencies so effectively. As for what we need in a new president, quite simply, we need another Phil Austin who believes in this University and who has the vision to help us move forward."
John DeWolf, professor of civil and environmental engineering and chair, University Senate Executive Committee

"President Austin has had genuine concern about and understanding of what everyone is doing. His commitment to academic and research excellence has been a source of inspiration."
Dr. Bruce Liang, director of the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center, chief, Division of Cardiology, and Ray Neag Distinguished Professor of Vascular Biology and Cardiology

"President Austin was respectful, inclusive, caring, and very dedicated. He always appreciated the contributions of faculty, staff, and students. I am saddened by his resignation on one hand and happy for him on the other. Ten years in the role of president - with all the growth we have seen over the last decade - would take a toll on anyone. I totally respect his decision and I am very happy that he is not leaving UConn."
M. Kevin Fahey, president, University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association

"Phil Austin was chosen to lead a university at the crossroads. The state watched as he led a transformation of the University of Connecticut that many of us had only dreamed of. He managed this daunting task with grace, honoring the traditions of the institution while transforming both its physical facilities and its academic culture. The results are breathtaking. It's hard to remember now that the results were never assured, but always dependent on a strong leader. Phil Austin was the right person at the right time."
State Rep. Denise Merrill (D-Mansfield)

"Phil Austin has carried the University a long way, from a primarily undergraduate teaching institution to a public university committed to high levels of research productivity. He has accomplished this while enhancing undergraduate program quality, and without sacrificing the collaborative spirit at UConn. I can't think of any public university that has made greater strides toward excellence and high ratings than UConn over the past decade. The regional campuses have benefited from every one of these University-wide accomplishments."
Joseph Comprone, associate vice provost, Avery Point campus

"Throughout his tenure as President of the University, President Austin has understood the state-wide footprint of UConn, and has supported strengthening and expanding the academic programs offered at the regional campuses."
Pam Bramble, associate professor, art and art history, Torrington campus, and associate dean of fine arts

"Phil Austin has been an effective, honest leader who has led with compassion and a vision of where UConn can be in the next decade. Few university presidents have spent over a decade in this type of leadership position, and the demands on Phil have been considerable. I welcome him as a colleague and fellow faculty member and look forward to having him remain connected with UConn."
Sally Reis Renzulli, professor of educational psychology

"The University has been very lucky to have had President Austin's leadership in this phase of its development. Although soft-spoken, he is thoughtful and effective in his leadership. He will be a tough act to follow."
Dr. John Shanley, professor of medicine, director, Division of Infectious Diseases, and Connecticut State Chair in Infectious Diseases

"President Austin's vision of One University jump-started the changes that led to a stronger, more unified UConn across all its component parts. It was an essential factor in raising the University's overall performance and reputation during the past 10 years."
James Walter, associate vice president for communications, Health Center

"Phil Austin is a visionary leader. His accomplishments are legion, and he deserves our thanks and praise for all he has done for the University and state that we love. But when I look back on his years at UConn what I remember most are the dignity and humility he brought to the job. I hope the search committee looks for someone with similar strengths, someone who listens, someone who believes we can be better than we are, and someone who knows he is a member of a team, albeit its quarterback."
Francis Archambault, professor emeritus of education and President, Alumni Association

"In my nine years of working closely with President Austin on UConn Foundation Board matters, I have always respected him as one of the most sincere listeners I have met in 40 years of business and board work. He has made it clear that the future of this institution depends on our alumni choices and participation. All of us at UConn have been very fortunate to have his services for these past 10 years packed full of outstanding accomplishments."
Denis McCarthy, Class of 1964 and 1965, former chair, Foundation Board of Directors, and current chair of the board's Nominating and Board Governance Committee

"When President Austin arrived in 1996, UConn 2000 had just been approved by the legislature, and transforming the University into a national phenomenon was still just a dream. Phil had more to do with making that dream a reality than anyone. Carole and I are honored to have been a part of the tremendous strides that have taken place under his leadership."
Ray Neag '56, alumnus and donor


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