Chancellor Herman to stay on as assistant

Chancellor Herman to stay on as assistant

URBANA – After spending years creating opportunities for underprivileged students, Chancellor Richard Herman lost his job because of his role in helping privileged students get into the University of Illinois.

"He's a victim of the political culture of Rod Blagojevich and Emil Jones," said Lou Mervis, a successful Danville businessman and a major UI donor.

Herman resigned Tuesday, following in the footsteps of UI President B. Joseph White, who also was implicated in the "Category I" scandal in which a small number of candidates, mostly politically connected students from affluent parts of the Chicago area, gained admittance over more-qualified applicants. Blagojevich, the indicted former governor, and Jones, a former Illinois Senate president, were among some of the state's ranking politicians pressuring the university to admit well-connected students.

The resignation is effective Oct. 26. Herman's current contract as chancellor would have expired June 30, 2010. Upon resignation as chancellor and pending approval of the UI board, the 68-year-old Herman, who arrived on campus as provost in 1998, will serve as special assistant to interim President Stanley Ikenberry until the end of June.

He submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday to UI Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher G. Kennedy, who accepted it pending board approval. The board's executive committee is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Friday in Chicago to act on the resignation and a revised employment agreement.

Meanwhile, Ikenberry and interim Provost Robert Easter will assume many of Herman's duties, possibly for several months.

"At least for a period, Bob Easter and I are going to make sure nothing falls between the chairs," Ikenberry said. He said that period will probably extend beyond three months.

After next June, Herman will become a mathematics professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and then go on a one-year sabbatical. In 2011, he will return as a professor earning $244,000 in the College of Education.

Herman will forego a $300,000 bonus that he would have earned by retaining his position until next summer.

Herman's supporters among faculty and the community, some of whom wrote letters to The News-Gazette praising his work as chancellor, describe Herman as a caring man with a special place for those in need.

He was raised in Brooklyn in his working-class grandfather's house and was able to attend college on an academic scholarship. Herman graduated in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., and earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Maryland in 1967.

Herman told The New-Gazette that he had considered resigning this summer but decided it was better for the campus for him to stay on. But the pressure on him grew.

"The best course is to move on and let the institution seek new leadership," he said of his resignation.

Asked if he were pressured to resign, Herman said: "I wouldn't call it pressure.

"There was lots of discussion about what's good for the place. At the end of the day, you are there to serve the institution. I think both my wife and I have given it 24/7. It hasn't been a job; it's been a calling."

Herman said the 98-55 campus senate vote calling for his departure was "troubling" but not the deciding factor.

"Obviously it was disturbing," he told The News-Gazette.

"I have a lot of respect for the senate. Shared governance means something to me. At the same time, I looked at the letters from a number of stellar faculty, the community ... they showed that 10 or 11 years had made no small difference.

"At a certain point you say, 'Are you the right person? Can we continue to do what we've done before with the full faith of everyone?'"

One program Herman personally created is Illinois Promise, a scholarship program for disadvantaged students.

"Richard came to me with the idea, and it was his idea, about five years ago," Mervis said. "He is a fantastic man. This idea is something that somebody should have thought up before."

Herman noted that he was the first generation in his family to go to college, and many Illinois Promise students have also been first-generation students.

Mervis' $250,000 first donation got the scholarship project started. Herman has found about 270 other supporters for the private donation program. The program covers the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and books and supplies, for students falling below certain financial thresholds.

Another significant donor, Betsy Hendrick, who owns Hendrick House, a private Urbana residence hall, said the issue was personal to Herman.

"He cares very much for the underprivileged and is very concerned about equal opportunity education," said Hendrick, who said she considers the chancellor a man who was "caught in the middle" of the admissions scandal.

Rick Hill, chairman and CEO of Novellus Systems and chairman of the UI Foundation, said Herman had appealed, in a literal sense, to a wide cross-section of Illinois faithful.

"Having worked with Richard closely on fundraising for the university and visibility for the University of Illinois alumni throughout Asia, his enthusiastic promotion and pride of the educational excellence of this great institution will be dearly missed," he said.

Tom Siebel, former chairman and CEO of Siebel Systems and a prominent UI donor, said the resignation is a loss to the university, which "benefited greatly from Chancellor Herman's broad vision and deep insight, coupled with his considerable organizational skills and persuasive ability.

"Richard Herman approached his job every day with one – and only one – motivation. He was motivated by the sincere desire to act in the best interests of the students and the faculty of the University of Illinois."

Herman will continue to work with the campus' Illinois Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative. Known as I-STEM, the initiative has the goal of increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and math teachers graduating from the Urbana campus and improving education in those subjects at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels.

Ikenberry had nothing but praise for the chancellor.

"I think Richard overall had 11 great years on this campus, and he has lots of very good friends; I would count myself among them. I think the entire community admires what he has accomplished and wishes him well," Ikenberry said.

Herman said serving as provost and chancellor of the Urbana campus has been the great privilege of a 40-year career in higher education, but that he is stepping aside to enable a newly constituted board of trustees to select new university and campus leadership.

"Ours is a great institution with its brilliant and hard-working faculty and staff, and its smart and ambitious students, and I plan to continue to contribute to ensuring the bright future of the University of Illinois," Herman wrote in his letter to the board. "Thank you for the honor to serve the university. I have enjoyed every minute, in fact, every nanosecond."

Herman said he was also especially proud of the Institute for Genomic Biology, which recently became the first to decode the entire genome of the cow, and the petascale computer project, as well as the Roger Ebert Film Studies Program.

"Richard Herman has made significant contributions to the Urbana-Champaign campus and to public higher education. The shared commitment that Richard and his wife, Susan, have made to the university and community is commendable," Kennedy said in a press release.

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