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July 29, 2004

Announcement of Kevin P. Reilly as the next University of Wisconsin System President

Transcript of Press Conference Video

Regent President Toby Marcovich: I am more than pleased to announce that the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has just voted without dissent to appoint Dr. Kevin Reilly as the sixth president of the UW System.

We are delighted that Chancellor Reilly has agreed to take on these new challenges and to work with us in making this great university system even better and more responsive to the needs of Wisconsin citizens.

He brings a remarkable set of experiences and skills to this new position – and also a good sense of humor, which he's going to need. (laughter) He has done an exemplary job as chancellor of UW-Extension and he has been a leader in the university's strong push over the past few years to help Wisconsin's economy grow.  His people skills and his contacts with community leaders, media, legislators and average citizens across this state will be invaluable to him in his new role as president.

I want to say that we undertook a rigorous national search for this position and had many excellent candidates. We regents feel that Kevin Reilly is the right man to lead the university during these challenging times.  He is highly respected, not only by the Regents, but by students, faculty, staff, system officials and his fellow chancellors.  We know that he will continue, as president, his already strong commitment to the Wisconsin Idea.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to present to you the sixth president of the University of Wisconsin System, Kevin Reilly. (applause)

Kevin Reilly: Thank you, all. I have a few remarks I want to make and then I'll be happy to take questions from the press.

Thanks, Regent Marcovich, or Regent Mar-CO-vich, as our Russian visitor from Kuban State called you a few months ago. And thanks to all the Regents for the real honor, the genuine honor, that I'm feeling very much right now of serving as the President of a public university system with one of the richest traditions in American higher education.

I'm grateful for the confidence you've placed in my abilities and experience. I'm eager to work with you in building on the excellence of the University of Wisconsin.

I believe that our job as a public university is to be Wisconsin's premier developer of human potential, of the jobs that employ that potential, and of the flourishing communities that sustain it.

My job as President will be to communicate the importance of that work and build lasting relationships with the people and organizations that make it possible.

With strong partnerships and a clear vision, we can tackle any number of challenges. Among them, we must address issues of affordability, access, economic development and quality.

We know that talent and creativity and drive and enterprise are not the exclusive purview of wealthy families, so we need to keep higher education affordable for all Wisconsin people.

I look forward to working with the students, the faculty, the staff, Chancellors, and Regents on a financial aid package that helps young people from lower- and middle-income families expand their knowledge and prepare themselves for lifelong success.

I might say that I stand in front of you as the grandchild of four Irish immigrants who came to this country in no small part because the kind of educational access and experiences that America offered were not available to them in Ireland at the time that they left. And they gambled that they would be for their children and grandchildren in America. It turned out to be a pretty good gamble. Here I am.

So we need to do the same for future generations here. I think one of the real geniuses of the American spirit has been that we figured out that by educating an ever broader and deeper cut of our population in this country to ever higher levels, we can succeed as a democracy and we can succeed as an economy, and we dare not fail in that regard.

Our Wisconsin workers need access to educational opportunities throughout their careers. Today's business climate, we know, demands flexibility, responsiveness, and we have much to gain by further developing our pool of experienced and talented workers.

That's why the University will work closely with the Wisconsin Technical Colleges on efforts that increase the number of residents with baccalaureate degrees, through degree programs, certificates and courses designed specifically for busy working adults.

Wisconsin ranks 31st among the states now in the percent of our adult population with college degrees. And we know there's a direct correlation between that percentage and the average annual salaries in states. And we need to do better in that regard in this state.

These and other efforts to address affordability and access will raise our per-capita income in Wisconsin, grow our tax base and stimulate economic prosperity.

I've focused much of my attention in my years as Chancellor of Extension on the University's role in economic development, and I expect to intensify that focus in the President's post.

As we level the pathway to higher learning and open wide the pipeline of research and discovery, the challenge will be to ensure that the education and research itself is of the highest quality. We must keep our brightest minds in the classrooms and laboratories, if we are to preserve the high academic standards that are synonymous with the "UW" name. That entails providing nationally competitive compensation packages for our faculty, staff and administrators.

Ultimately, we must see that the fruits of their labor are returned to the people who paid for it – the Wisconsin taxpayers. This is the public service obligation of our public university, and we must give people every opportunity to see how they benefit directly from their investment in higher education.

Thankfully, I will not be tackling these issues alone. I will work with a fine group of Regents, exceptionally talented faculty and staff across the UW System, and a strong cadre of Chancellors and Provosts.

I look forward to collaborating with the Governor, the Legislature, and all citizens – especially our own UW students and clients – to keep the future of the university bright, and to extend that light to every corner of this state.

I enter this job knowing that I have the distinct privilege – and the daunting challenge – of following in the footsteps of President Katharine Lyall, who could not be here today, by the way, because she's at a Board meeting for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching out in California. But, in her absence, I would like to thank her for 13 years of commitment, service, and caring leadership of the UW System. I will miss her as a boss and a colleague, but know I can rely on her continuing friendship and advice. And I know I will need it!

Leading this university is a big job. The recently released "Charting a New Course" study gives us a useful roadmap, and I look forward to hearing from others who have ideas about where this great University should go, and how we should get there. In any case, I am confident that the journey will be a rewarding and exciting one for all of us.

I'd be happy now to take your questions.

Read the full press conference transcript

View the Press Conference video (7:56) Real Media format (39MB)

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