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Trustees approve Jones as Urbana-Champaign chancellor
Board also renews Springfield chancellor, approves other high-level appointments

July 21, 2016 

URBANA, Ill. — The University of Illinois Board of Trustees on Thursday approved the appointment of Robert J. Jones, an academic leader with more than three decades of experience in public higher education, as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Trustees also renewed the appointment of Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), after a successful review of her five years as head of the University system’s growing campus in the state capital.

Jones’ appointment as chancellor in Urbana-Champaign was announced Tuesday by President Tim Killeen, following a national search that attracted more than 100 applications and nominations.

Killeen said Jones is “ideally qualified” to lead the 46,000-student campus into the future, with a long record of achievement as an educator, researcher and top administrator at public universities, including more than 30 years in the Big Ten.

Since 2013, Jones has served as president of the University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY), one of the SUNY system’s leading research universities. Earlier, he spent 34 years at the University of Minnesota, a Big Ten land-grant institution where he began as a faculty agronomist and rose in leadership, serving as senior vice president for academic administration from 2004 to 2013.

Jones, 65, who will be the first African-American chancellor in Urbana-Champaign since the office was created in 1967, will assume his new role on Oct. 3. He succeeds Barbara J. Wilson, who served as interim chancellor since last August, when Phyllis Wise resigned and returned to the faculty.

Trustees also renewed Koch’s appointment for up to five years after a review of her five years as chancellor in Springfield.

Since taking office in July 2011, Koch has raised UIS’s profile and reputation, focused on faculty and student recruitment, expanded academic programs, engaged with the local community, and enhanced the student experience and campus environment. The campus broke ground in May for a first-ever student union to create a more vibrant student life.

Five-year reviews are common for academic leaders and Killeen commenced the process in conjunction with the UIS Academic Senate, led by Senate Executive Committee Chair Kathy Novak. The review included input from faculty, students and staff.

Other appointments

The board also approved several other high-level appointments, including new deans at each of its three universities and a new athletics director in Springfield.

Trustees appointed Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell as dean of the College of Applied Health Sciences in Urbana-Champaign, which provides teaching and research that promotes health and wellness across the lifespan.

Hanley-Maxwell, an Urbana-Champaign graduate, is currently a professor and associate dean of rehabilitation psychology and special education in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Urbana-Champaign and earlier served on the faculty at Southern Illinois University.

Her appointment is effective Aug. 16 and she succeeds Tonya Gallagher, who is returning to the faculty after serving as dean since 1998.

The board also approved the appointment of Ralph Keen as dean of the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Keen has served as interim dean since last August, when he succeeded Bette Bottoms, who returned to the faculty after six years as dean and a year as interim dean.

Keen joined UIC in 2010 as a professor of history and Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies. Earlier he served as associate professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa, where he also was involved in the honors program. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, a master’s from Yale University and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

His appointment as permanent dean is effective Aug. 16. The college was founded in 1982 and provides honors-specific coursework, research experiences and service learning for about 1,600 undergraduates at UIC.

The board also approved the appointment of Pattie Piotrowski as university librarian and dean of library instructional services at UIS’s Brookens Library, effective Aug. 1.

Since 2006, Piotrowski has served as assistant dean for public services of the Paul V. Galvin Library at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Rosary College, a master’s in library and information science from Dominican University and a master of business administration from IIT.

She succeeds Jane Treadwell, who retired in April.

Trustees also approved the appointment of James M. Sarra Jr. as director of athletics at UIS, effective Aug. 1.

Sarra has been a collegiate athletics administrator for more than two decades and has served as deputy director of athletics at the University of Texas at San Antonio since 2009. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and master’s degrees from St. Bonaventure and Western Illinois University.

He succeeds Kimberly Pate, who left to become athletics director at Lenoir-Rhyne University, and will lead an NCAA Division II program with 15 men’s and women’s teams. Hayley Treadway, associate director of athletics compliance at UIS, has served as interim athletics director since May.

The board also approved the appointment of Jason Rex Tolliver as interim vice chancellor for student affairs at UIC, effective Sept. 1.

Tolliver joined UIC in 2015 as associate vice chancellor for student affairs and director of Campus Auxiliary Services. He will serve during a search to replace Barbara Henley, a UIC alumnus who will retire Aug. 31 after a nearly two-decade career at UIC.

Trustees also approved the appointment of Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko as interim dean of the College of Media at Urbana-Champaign, effective Friday.

Chodzko-Zajko, a University faculty member since 2005, also will continue to serve as dean of the Graduate College. He will serve during a national search to replace Jan Slater, who has returned to the college’s faculty.

Distinguished Service Medallion

The board awarded its Distinguished Service Medallion to Susan M. Kies, an Urbana-Champaign graduate who returned to become a top University officer and advisor under three presidents before her retirement on June 30.

Kies served for nearly five years as Secretary of the Board of Trustees and of the University, one of four board officers with major, wide-ranging responsibilities that include planning for board and board committee meetings; maintaining the minutes, records and major documents of the board; responding to requests from the public; and advising the president and other top administrators.

The medallion is only the 30th presented by the board since the honor was created in 1974 to recognize individuals who have contributed to the University’s growth and development with “unusual distinction.” Past awards have honored four University presidents, public officials, faculty, staff, alumni and donors, including professor and two-time Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen and Illini football icon Harold “Red” Grange.

Kies earned her bachelor’s degree in Urbana-Champaign and returned after receiving master’s and doctoral degrees at Oklahoma State University. She joined the College of Medicine regional campus at Urbana-Champaign in 1993, and served in faculty and administrative roles before becoming associate dean for academic affairs/curriculum development, a position she held until her appointment as secretary in 2011.

“In every role, she has brought a passion for the interests of students, a commitment to build on the University’s global reputation for excellence, and a collegial spirit that have combined to earn her respect across the University system and beyond,” trustees said in a resolution awarding the medallion.

Kies was succeeded by Dedra “Dee Dee” Williams, a high-ranking University administrator for more than two decades who most recently served as assistant vice president for academic affairs.


The University of Illinois System is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 80,000 students, 24,000 faculty and staff, and campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.



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