Stukel offers food for thought at breakfast

Dan McDonald

Dan McDonald

By Ryan Hall

University president James Stukel reflected on the changes the three Illinois campuses experienced during his presidency at a breakfast Thursday morning at Hawthorne Suites, addressing members of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce.

Saying he would rather have future president B. Joseph White speak about the University’s future, Stukel discussed some of the achievements reached under his presidency.

“Many of the things that have happened impacted the community in a very profound way,” he said.

Stukel explained that the University receives about $500 million in federal tax dollars each year for research, which creates 7,000 to 8,000 jobs, most of which are in the community.

Stukel also said the three campuses of the University of Illinois hold the top three spots for higher education in the state. The University is ranked first, while the Springfield and Chicago campuses are ranked second and third, respectively. The University of Illinois at Springfield is the newest addition to the University and was converted from Sangamon State during the first days of Stukel’s presidency.

A major goal was “to put a face on the University,” Stukel said. After traveling to more than 80 counties, Stukel said he learned that not everyone wants to attend a large university, so the Springfield campus, which is not as large as the University’s campus, is an option for those students.

Interim Chancellor Richard Herman expressed his admiration for Stukel’s vision.

“I’ve been fortunate to work for some wonderful people throughout my career,” Herman said. “And Jim (Stukel) is no exception to that.”

Herman said Stukel’s four-part vision “to enrich undergraduate education, to enhance quality throughout the University, to free more dollars for academic purposes by streamlining business operations and to strengthen the University in the eyes of the citizens of Illinois” has become a reality.

Stukel spoke highly of U of I Online. He said it was created for those who do not have time to attend a university, but nevertheless allows them to earn a degree. He said the program has been particularly successful at the Springfield campus.

“The market is growing and the needs are very different from what they were nine and a half years ago,” Stukel said. “The University of Illinois has to be out front.”

During his presidency, Stukel said the University reorganized its internal affairs. Banner was introduced as a solution to replace the current system, tying all three campuses together in a more effective manner, he said.

“Of all the things that’s happened in the last nine and a half years, (Banner) may be the most transformational,” Stukel said.

The project cost $190 million, but came during a time of decreased state funding. As a result of the cuts, many jobs were lost, including those of deans, assistant chancellors and vice presidents. Stukel made it clear that contrary to arguments, reducing more overhead positions would not be beneficial.

“If all of those folks were given a pink slip today,” Stukel said, “we would still have to come up with over $200 million.”

State Representative Naomi Jakobsson, D-Champaign, attended the breakfast and said she shares Stukel’s concern over state funding. While Jakobsson said Stukel did a good job representing the University, she said she looks forward to a bright outlook under White.

President Stukel will be stepping down on Feb. 1. He said he plans on spending his time raising his grandchildren and traveling with his wife. As for the University’s future, Stukel said he feels White and his wife are ideal for the job.

“They have a vision that I think you’re really going to like,” he said.

Stukel praised the community that has been such a important part of his life.

“It is with some sadness that we will be leaving,” Stukel said. “It’s just been a wonderful time.”