UI launches $60 million effort to recruit more 'superstar' professors

UI launches $60 million effort to recruit more 'superstar' professors

URBANA — A initiative to attract more "superstar" professors to the University of Illinois — and offset faculty losses during a two-year budget impasse — kicked off this semester.

The three-year, $60 million recruiting effort will provide one-time grants for newly hired professors to renovate and equip labs and hire graduate students. Start-up packages, which have become more critical in hiring "the best of the best," can run as high as $2 million in fields such as bioengineering or chemistry, UI President Tim Killeen said.

The idea is to give the UI leverage in the competitive world of faculty recruiting.

"This will make the U of I System a key player in an increasingly competitive arena where just a single hire can be a game-changer, raising your national profile and your appeal to students and research funding agencies," Killeen told UI trustees Thursday.

Killeen announced the Distinguished Faculty Recruitment Program in May, contingent on passage of a full-year's state funding for the UI. Legislators approved a spending plan in July, though it included a 10 percent cut in the UI's base budget.

The goal is to hire 10 to 15 faculty a year, and up to 45 over three years. The program will pool $30 million from the UI system and $30 million combined from the three campuses in Urbana, Chicago and Springfield. The money will not be used for faculty salaries.

Proposals will be accepted from all three campuses. The UI wants to attract tenured faculty of "international distinction" in a broad range of disciplines, adding to its roster of Nobel Laureates and MacArthur genius grant winners, he said.

The program will target professors who engage in cutting-edge research or activities, work in areas of high student demand, and who can provide "transformative excellence" to the UI and enhance the diversity of their departments, he said.

In other business, the board:

— Approved the appointment of longtime administrator Avijit Ghosh as interim chief financial officer for the UI system during a national search to replace Walter Knorr, who retired on Aug. 31. Ghosh has been CEO of the UI Hospital in Chicago since 2014.

— Approved UI alumnus Steven Anderson, director of the School of Social Work at Michigan State, as dean of the School of Social Work in Urbana. He succeeds Wynne Korr, dean since 2002, who is returning to the faculty.

— Installed UI alumnus Dr. Stuart King, 51, of Champaign as the newest trustee. He was appointed to a six-year term by Gov. Bruce Rauner and succeeds Karen Hasara of Springfield, whose term ended in January.

— Agreed to a $62 million contract with Epic for an integrated information technology system at the UI Hospital in Chicago.

— Approved designs for a $41 million renovation of the Mechanical Engineering Building and a $33.7 million renovation of the Civil Engineering Hydrosystems Lab in Urbana.

Tennis, softball coaches get boost

Two Illini head coaches will get raises and contract extensions under appointments approved Thursday by UI trustees.

Brad Dancer, head tennis coach since 2005, has a new agreement that runs through August 2023.

Dancer, who earned $142,269 last year, will see his base salary rise to $175,000 this year and $220,000 in contract year six.He will also receive a retention bonus of $100,000 if he stays on through Aug. 15, 2020, and a second bonus of $150,000 in August 2023.

Likewise, softball coach Tyra Perry, who was hired in 2015, has a new five-year contract that runs through Aug. 15, 2022.

Perry, who earned $124,800 last year, will be paid $140,000 this year and $165,000 in the final year of the agreement.

She will also get a $100,000 retention bonus if she stays at Illinois through the life of the contract.

Both coaches get 90 percent of any net profits from camps and clinics operated by the university in their respective sports.