The University of Illinois — once again — has a new president.
Dr. Robert Easter, the UI's man for all seasons, assumed the presidency on Monday, and the stars are in alignment.
Well, let's not get too carried away. The UI's challenges will be no less severe under Easter's tenure than they were under former UI President Michael Hogan.
Nonetheless, the affable and popular Easter should be able to reduce the drama that emanated from the president's office during Hogan's two-year reign.
The discord clearly was not all Hogan's fault. Some faculty members are always looking for a fight. But financial shortfalls, a top-down management style that alienated administrators and faculty alike and a weird anonymous e-mail scandal involving Hogan's chief of staff, Lisa Troyer, combined to undermine Hogan's leadership, prompting the same UI trustees who hired Hogan to force him out of office and put Easter in.
On the heels of the Hogan setback, Easter shows every sign of being the right man for the job. But he's an unusual choice in that he never sought the job.
After four decades on campus, first serving as a professor in animal science and then working his way up the administrative ladder, Easter was preparing for retirement when he first was summoned for extra duty.
When the clouted admissions scandal forced UI President B. Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman out of office, Acting President Stanley Ikenberry named Easter acting chancellor. He remained in that post as new UI President Michael Hogan searched for a permanent chancellor, ultimately Phyllis Wise. After Wise took office, Easter became the interim vice chancellor for research.
When UI trustees contemplated removing Hogan, they turned again to Easter, this time to take charge of the UI's three campuses, and he served as the president designate during the transition period that ended July 1.
It's been a long and winding road for Easter, who has been acclimating himself to the people and issues at the Chicago and Springfield campuses. He arrives in the president's office with unprecedented goodwill, a sound record of accomplishment in a variety of important campus posts and vast experience. The big problems Easter faces pose a big opportunity, not the least of which is restoring administrative stability to a university that has seen more than its share of tumult in recent years.