MADSON, Wis. (AP) — Interim University of Wisconsin President Tommy Thompson submitted his resignation on Friday, effective in March, a move that will select finalists for the position as the working committee on the permanent leader’s name. prepares to do.
Former Governor Thompson, 80, took over as interim president of UW Systems on July 1, 2020. He comes on board after a failed search to find a replacement for Ray Cross.
In his resignation letter submitted to the Board of Regents, Thompson said he was honored to hold the position “particularly in what may have been its darkest hour.” His resignation is effective from March 18.
Thompson wrote, “While I firmly believe that the quest for excellence is never-ending, I am satisfied that I have fulfilled what has been asked of me and what the people of this state have desired.” “I am confident that our foundation is as strong as ever. It is time to give you and the board the ability to prepare for the successor to lead UW Systems in the years to come.”
The letter arrives in the form of a search committee selecting the finalists for a permanent chair. The committee is expected to conduct interviews this month and name its choice in February. The hiring decision will be subject to the full Board of Regents.
Thompson, a former US Secretary of Health and Human Services, advocated for stronger COVID-19 measures on university campuses, including repeated testing, vaccinations and mask mandates. He also pushed for a return to in-person classes in the fall of 2021.
A Republican, Thompson also worked to repair the university’s often controversial relationship with the GOP-controlled state legislature. When some Republicans threatened to sue Thompson for not seeking legislative approval for the university’s COVID-19 policies, Thompson refused to budge.
“I’m not going to be scared,” he said in August.
Ultimately Republican lawmakers backed out.
GOP legislators and Democratic Governor Tony Evers also lifted an eight-year moratorium on tuition in the state and returned rate-setting powers to regents under Thompson’s supervision.
The Regents ultimately decided not to increase in-state tuition for the 2021-22 academic year. Thompson said in his resignation letter that he felt he had restored the confidence of elected officials in system spending.
“Tommy Thompson was the right person at the right time,” Edmund Maniedes, chairman of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, said in a statement. “His leadership has helped us carry through a pandemic and set the standard for management during a crisis.”
Thompson is the only person to have been elected to a four, four-year term as governor. He stepped down midway in 2001 to serve as health secretary to then-President George W. Bush during his fourth term.
Thompson ran a brief run for the presidency in 2008 and also ran for the US Senate in 2012, losing to Democrat Tammy Baldwin. He was a member of the state assembly in 1971, when it voted to create the UW system.
Associated Press writer Todd Richmond in Madison contributed to this report.