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Marking a Course for Higher Education: Former provost and Law School dean leads University of Texas System

Chancellor Mark G. Yudof and University of Texas at Austin President Larry R. Faulkner
Mark G. Yudof (left) and University of Texas at Austin President Larry R. Faulkner talk at the event announcing Yudof's appointment as chancellor of The University of Texas System.
The Board of Regents made official on June 21 the appointment of Mark G. Yudof as the ninth chancellor of The University of Texas System. Yudof, a former University of Texas at Austin dean and provost who has been president of the University of Minnesota since 1997, is expected to begin serving as chancellor in early August. He succeeds R. D. Burck, who announced last summer that he would step down from the chancellor’s office.

“It is a high honor to be asked by the Board of Regents to serve as chancellor of The University of Texas System, one of the nation’s premier higher education systems,” Yudof said at the meeting of the Board of Regents on the ninth floor of Ashbel Smith Hall.

“I thank the members of the board for extending this opportunity to me, and I accept this position with optimism, enthusiasm and gratitude. I also wish to thank our many Texas friends – former students, faculty colleagues, political leaders and others - for their warm expressions of welcome.

“I am also grateful for the support and assistance that I have received from Chancellor Burck. I have known and admired Dan for many years. He has served in this office with great distinction, and I look forward to working with him and his team as we make the transition to a new administration. I am sure that I will have many occasions in the months ahead to confer with Dan and seek the benefit of his wisdom and experience.”

Yudof said the June 21 regents’ meeting “will always be deeply memorable for my wife, Judy, and me, as it marks our return to Texas, where we raised our family and initially built our careers, and where we still have so many dear friends. We have loved living and working in Minnesota these past five years and sharing our lives and dreams with the people of that wonderful state, and we will always treasure our experiences there.”

Yudof said as chancellor he will be supportive of The University of Texas at Austin’s mission as one of the nation’s major research universities.

“That will be a high priority,” he said. “The University of Texas System, of course, has multiple missions, and we will pursue all of them. It is clear, however, that The University of Texas at Austin is one of the premier research universities in America, and we must build on that strength. That is good for the state and all of its people. It is good for the economy, for our culture and for the quality of life in Texas.”

Yudof made clear his view that it is not the role of the chancellor and the system office to micromanage the campuses.

Chancellor Mark G. Yudof
Chancellor Mark G. Yudof
“The chancellor does not run our campuses," Yudof said, "and we must remember that great universities are highly decentralized. I know that The University of Texas at Austin is an extremely well-run campus, and I have great confidence in President (Larry R.) Faulkner, Provost (Sheldon) Ekland-Olson, the deans of the colleges and schools, and others.”

As an administrator at The University of Texas at Austin and at the University of Minnesota, Yudof continued to teach courses, and he said he hopes to be able to continue that practice despite the time constraints of the chancellor’s position.

“I want to see how I can continue to be with students in the classroom, perhaps by having a co-teacher. An advantage of a university administrator being in the classroom is that you can’t fool the students. If something is wrong they will know it and will tell you about it, so it is good to have direct contact with students. I’m going to work hard at that.”

The Board of Regents had named Yudof as the sole finalist for the chancellor’s position at the end of May, but in accordance with state law were required to wait at least 21 days before voting to offer the position to Yudof. The intervening time included numerous meetings between Yudof and state and campus officials, leaders of faculty, student and staff advisory groups, and others. The vote by the regents on June 21 was unanimous.

Yudof said after the meeting that he looks forward to working with the staff of The University of Texas System administration.

“I know that the system has a very hard working and able staff, and I want them to know that we will have continuity as we make the transition to a new chancellor,” Yudof said. “I know some of the staff already, and I look forward to meeting the others, although it will probably take me a few months to learn everybody’s name.”

Charles Miller, chairman of the Board of Regents, said after the vote: “On behalf of the Board of Regents, I want to express our delight that Mark Yudof has accepted this key role in American higher education. He brings to the chancellor’s office a wealth of experience across the entire spectrum of higher education. He will provide The University of Texas System with bold and visionary leadership.

Chancellor Mark G. Yudof and Chairman Charles Miller
Chancellor Mark G. Yudof and Charles Miller, chairman of the Board of Regents
“As chancellor, Mark will become the chief administrative officer of one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious higher education systems with nine academic and six health institutions, an enrollment of more than 160,000, and an annual operating budget of almost $6.5 billion. The unanimous vote of the board is indicative of the confidence and support that Mark has from all of us.

“I also want to thank everyone who has met with Mark or talked to him by telephone, correspondence and email in the past three weeks. . .and for the time they have given to him and to our board in conducting this very thorough national search for a new chancellor. I want to thank many of my fellow Texans for their wise counsel to us in this selection. We heard from many citizens and leaders, public and private, which was extremely valuable.

“I also want to thank the Faculty, Employee and Student Advisory Councils for their time with us and with Mark in providing us feedback and counsel in this selection.

“Finally, I want to express the profoundest thanks to Dan Burck, our current chancellor, for his years of service to The University of Texas System, our Board of Regents and to the people of Texas.”

Yudof told the Board of Regents that the challenges facing The University of Texas System are formidable, “but the opportunities for service to the people of Texas and the nation are virtually unlimited.”

“No one person can meet these challenges successfully; no one person can achieve the opportunities that await us,” Yudof said.

“These are tasks that require teamwork, collaboration and a common vision, applied with persistence and sustained over an extended period of time. Most important, I plan to visit the component institutions and to engage their administrators, faculty, staff and students in serious discussion about an integrated vision for The University of Texas System, recognizing both the diversity and synergies of a great state system. I also plan to engage the people of Texas, who have sacrificed so much to sustain the university for more than a century. I trust we can face the challenges with intelligence, tenacity and good humor.”

Photos by Marsha Miller

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  Updated 2014 October 13
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