White creates financial position

By Dan Petrella

After two years of numerous personnel changes in the University administration, President B. Joseph White announced last week that he is creating a new administrative position: chief financial officer.

The chief financial officer, who is expected to be on the job by the beginning of the next academic year, will be in charge of overseeing all financial matters for the University’s Urbana, Chicago and Springfield campuses.

White said while similar positions exist at numerous other universities, the University did not previously have a chief financial officer because historically, most of its funding came from the state. As the University increasingly draws revenue from private donors and other sources, its finances have become much more complex, prompting White to create the new position.

“I think it’s a very natural next stage in the development of the leadership of the University,” White told a panel on WILL-TV Tuesday night. “We’re a 3.5 billion-dollar-a-year operation with a lot of sources of revenue, many forms of cost . I think it’s very important that we have a professionally educated and trained person in accounting, finance, audits, financial markets, etcetera, who will oversee all of those functions.”

The University will conduct a national search to fill the position, similar to the recent provost search that resulted in the hiring of Linda Katehi. White said he is still deciding what the make up of the search committee will be, but the student trustee from each of the three campuses will definitely be involved in the process.

“I’d like somebody who shares a deep belief in the mission of a public university, but is completely comfortable in the private sector, where a great deal of financial sophistication exists,” White said, discussing the kind of candidate he will be looking for to fill the position.

Student Trustee Nick Klitzing, junior in LAS, said he thinks the search will be interesting because unlike candidates for other administrative positions, chief financial officer candidates will probably come from widely known corporations outside of higher education.

The CFO will take on the financial and budgetary responsibilities previously handled by Vice President for Administration, Steve Rugg. His position will be renamed “vice president for planning and administration.” Rugg could not be reached for comment.

Because chief financial officer is an upper-level administrative position overseeing all three of the University’s campuses, Klitzing said he does not think students will immediately see a change on campus.

“In large part, I don’t think students will be affected by the position on a day-to-day basis, but I really believe the position will have a huge effect on the quality of the University and the quality of education students receive,” he said.

White said he thinks there are a few effects that students will notice.

“My hope is that students will experience, in the form of constrained tuition increases, excellent cost management and increases in non-tuition sources of revenues, and that they will see major progress in this large deferred maintenance problem that we all know we have, as symbolized by Lincoln Hall,” White said.