White announces plans to hire CFO

White announces plans to hire CFO

URBANA – University of Illinois President B. Joseph White is creating a new position for a chief financial officer for the university.

In an e-mail sent to UI administrators Tuesday, White announced several organizational changes, including a search for a new vice president and CFO.

White also announced that Vice President for Academic Affairs Chet Gardner is stepping down and returning to faculty work, and the responsibilities for Vice President for Administration Steve Rugg will be altered.

White said his decision to create a CFO position "is about the job, it's not about the people."

"We're a $3.5-billion-a-year operation with multiple sources of revenue, big capital expenditures, with a substantial amount of debt, and I think we need a chief financial officer for the university to oversee and manage all that," he said.

The UI will do a national search to fill the position, and White said he'd like to have someone on the job by the start of the next academic year.

"I'm taking personal responsibility for that search. I think it's one of the most important appointments I'll make as president," White said, adding the board of trustees, chancellors and faculty will be involved.

He said he wants to fill the job with someone with a professional background in accounting and finance. He said that might be a certified public accountant or someone with experience in audits, public accounting, capital marketing experience, or the head of budget or treasury functions for an organization.

White said in his e-mail that the CFO role will "strengthen financial management of the university." The CFO will act as comptroller for the board of trustees and treasurer for the university. He will be responsible for all financial functions, including overseeing the UI's revenues, costs, capital expenditures, investments and debt. He will also be responsible for working with the other vice presidents on the UI's budget.

Those duties have all been done by Rugg as vice president for administration. His responsibilities include overseeing business and financial matters, human resources and administrative computing, working with state agencies on procurement and the capital budget, and advising trustees on investments.

White said Rugg will be vice president for planning and administration after the CFO is in place. He said Rugg's responsibilities will be approximately the same, other than the financial matters, but he also plans to add to his duties.

"I'm going to be doing work in the next couple of months to sort out duties more precisely," White said. "He has both deep experience with and dedication to the University of Illinois. Steve is an executive with great capacity. I need (him) to be fully engaged with a heavy load."

Gardner is stepping down from his job as of July 1, the start of the UI's next fiscal year. David Chicoine, vice president for technology and economic development, will take over Gardner's duties on an interim basis.

Gardner said that after seven years in the job, the completion of the UI Integrate project and the transition from former President James Stukel to White, "a lot of the challenge and excitement I found in this position would be missing, and that would be a time when I knew I would need to re-evaluate my role."

"The past seven years have been professionally for me one of the most interesting, most challenging and most satisfying times in my career," Gardner continued. "I'm very impressed with Joe White. He's bringing exceptionally strong leadership to the institution and I'll miss working with him, but I've made my contributions here and it's time to seek new challenges."

For Gardner, an electrical and computer engineer, that means research in the southern hemisphere, using sophisticated laser-based instruments to collect data on the upper atmosphere.

"He's done a superb job," White said of Gardner. "He's one of the most intelligent and diligent people I've ever worked with. I'm very grateful for the great support he gave me in my first year."

Gardner is responsible for overseeing matters of educational policy, academic programs and academic personnel decisions, and developing the operating budgets for the three campuses. He is the UI's primary liaison to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

White said he's not yet sure how Gardner's responsibilities will be handled in the future. He said he'll confer with chancellors, faculty members and others over the next several months about how the UI manages academic affairs.

"I think the president and the chancellors need to be more personally and directly engaged in building and ensuring the academic excellence of the University of Illinois," he said. "I don't know yet how that sorts out with respect to the academic affairs job as it's been structured.

"I take matters of organization and leadership very seriously," White said. "This is one of the moments when I want to pause, think deeply and confer widely before deciding where to go with regard to academic affairs leadership."

Gardner said a possible restructuring of the academic affairs job was not a factor in his decision to step down. He said White did not begin discussing any changes with him until after Gardner said he would be leaving the job.

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