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Doug Beck is co-chair of the search committee, not vice chair.


Board appoints presidential search committee
Trustees will choose from 8-10 finalists that panel recommends

April 18, 2014

CHICAGO, Ill. — Members of a committee that will lead a nationwide search for a new president were appointed by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees during a special meeting Friday.

Pamela B. Strobel, a trustee who received her bachelor’s and law degrees from the Urbana-Champaign campus, will chair the 19-member committee, which includes representatives of all major stakeholders on the University’s three campuses – from students, faculty and staff to alumni and donors. Douglas H. Beck, a professor of physics on the Urbana campus, will serve as co-chair.

The committee will identify and screen candidates to replace President Robert Easter, who will retire when his term ends on June 30, 2015. A list of eight to 10 finalists will then be presented to the Board, which hopes to name a new president by January to allow a smooth transition before Easter leaves office.

Board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said the committee reflects the rich diversity of the University and the state, with members from all campuses, varied career and life experiences, and broad ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

“They will bring both unique insights and a deep, shared understanding of the University’s needs, its challenges and the critical role that its academic and research programs play in driving progress for our state and nation,” Kennedy said.

Search committee members include three trustees; eight faculty members from the University’s three campuses; a student from each campus; a representative from the Alumni Association and one from the Foundation; an administrative officer; an academic professional; and a civil service representative.

Members, who were recommended by campus peer groups such as faculty Senates and student government associations, are:

Trustees – Strobel, a trustee since 2009 and former executive vice president of Exelon Corp.; Ricardo Estrada, a trustee since 2011 who received his MBA from the Chicago campus and is now president and chief executive officer of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago; and James D. Montgomery, a trustee since 2007 who received his bachelor’s and law degrees from the Urbana campus and is now a partner at the law firm of James D. Montgomery and Associates Ltd. in Chicago.

Faculty – Beck, who chaired the search committee when Phyllis Wise was hired as chancellor in Urbana; Nicholas C. Burbules, a professor of educational policy studies in Urbana; Roy H. Campbell, a professor of computer science in Urbana; Sharon Graf, a professor of enthomusicology in Springfield; Barbara Ransby, a professor of African-American studies and of gender and women’s studies in Chicago; Jorge Villegas, a professor of business administration in Springfield; William E. Walden, a professor of microbiology and immunology in Chicago; and Julie Zerwic, a professor of biobehavioral health science in Chicago.

Students – Jen Phillis, a doctoral candidate in English on the Chicago campus; Xavier R. Ramirez, a senior in social work and Latino/a studies on the Urbana campus; and Maya Rudder, a sophomore in biology on the Springfield campus.

Academic professional staff – Konstantinos Yfantis, manager of teaching and learning services with Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES) in Urbana.

Administration – Susan J. Koch, chancellor and vice president of the Springfield campus.

Civil service staff – Darlene Kendall, a financial analyst and planner with the physical plant on the Chicago campus.

Alumni Association – Stephen C. Van Arsdell, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Urbana campus and is retired senior partner of Deloitte and Touche LLP.

Foundation – James M. Benson, a former chair and life director of the Foundation Board of Directors who earned his bachelor’s degree from the Urbana campus.

Though the committee represents all major University constituencies, the board’s charge to the committee says that members should exercise their judgment based on the best interests of the University as a whole, and not consider themselves a representative of any single interest group.

The committee’s first assignment is to develop a profile outlining the structure and mission of the University, the role of the president, challenges and expectations that the new president may face, and personal qualifications necessary for the position.

Key qualifications include experience in leading and managing a large, complex academic organization; a commitment to excellence in teaching, research, public engagement and economic development; the ability to communicate with the University’s internal and external constituencies; an understanding of the changing nature of higher education; and the ability to adapt to changing and challenging fiscal environments.

The committee will work with a search firm that will be retained to assist with the search, and Board Secretary Susan Kies will serve as staff to the committee.

The president is the chief executive officer of the more than 78,000-student University and is responsible to the Board of Trustees. Chancellors lead the University’s three campuses in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign and report to the president.

Easter became the University’s 19th president on July 1, 2012, after 36 years as a faculty member and top administrator on the Urbana-Champaign campus. He first came to the University of Illinois in 1973 as a graduate student, and earned his doctorate in animal science in 1976. He joined the faculty that same year, and later served as head of the Department of Animal Science, as dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences from 2002 to 2009, and as interim chancellor of  the Urbana campus from 2009 to 2011.


The University of Illinois is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 78,000 students, more than 23,000 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.