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Published May 20, 2019
University of Wyoming Vice President for Finance and Administration Neil Theobald has been chosen to serve as the university’s acting president.
During a special teleconference meeting today (Monday), the UW Board of Trustees unanimously selected Theobald from among three finalists who were interviewed in person by the full board last week. The terms of his appointment are still being finalized, but it will be a one-year contract with an annual salary of $340,000, along with provision of a UW vehicle for his use. He will take office July 1, following the completion of current President Laurie Nichols’ contract.
“We are confident Neil will provide strong leadership to continue moving the university forward and lay the groundwork for a long-term president,” board Chairman Dave True says. “We appreciate his willingness and that of the other candidates to take on this important responsibility.”
Theobald has served as UW’s vice president for finance and administration since July 1, 2018. Before that, he was senior adviser to the president at Indiana University, where he was a tenured professor for two decades and served in a number of administrative roles -- as senior vice president and chief financial officer (2007-2012), senior vice chancellor (2002-07), and director of the Indiana Education Policy Center (1993-2002).
From 2012-16, he was the president of Temple University, during which time the university improved its U.S. News and World Report ranking 17 places; increased annual research funding by 55 percent to over $250 million per year, which led the Carnegie Foundation to upgrade Temple to its highest research activity classification (R1); and doubled annual fundraising from $39 million to $84 million.
Temple also set undergraduate enrollment records each year Theobald was president. In addition to being the largest entering class in Temple’s history, the last freshman class during his tenure was the most academically qualified and diverse, with the percentage of underrepresented minority students increasing from 19.9 percent of the student population to 22.2 percent over three years. In 2014, the Philadelphia Business Journal named Theobald its Most Admired Education CEO.
During Theobald’s time as Indiana University’s chief financial officer, the university’s credit ranking was upgraded to Moody’s highest level (AAA) -- making Indiana University one of only seven AAA-rated public universities in America. As director of the Indiana Education Policy Center, Theobald worked with the Indiana General Assembly to develop and implement a new K-12 education funding formula. A recent report by the Gates Foundation found Indiana’s funding system to be the most effective in the country. Theobald also is a three-time winner of Indiana University’s Teaching Excellence Recognition Award.
Theobald received his bachelor’s degree in economics at Trinity College in 1978, before working as a high school mathematics teacher and baseball coach in Seattle. He earned his master’s degree in educational administration in 1986 and a Ph.D. in education finance in 1989, both from the University of Washington. Theobald received the Association of Education Finance and Policy’s Outstanding Dissertation Award in 1990.
“I first visited the University of Wyoming campus, as a graduate student, more than 30 years ago,” recalls Theobald. “My doctoral adviser, John Goodlad, sent me to Laramie to help set up the Wyoming School-University Partnership, which continues to thrive in its mission of improving teacher education and renewing schools. I came to know and love the state during numerous visits with my good friend, Dick Andrews, former UW dean of education. It will be such an honor to work in support of our outstanding faculty, staff and trustees as they enable student success and discover innovations that spur growth and diversification in Wyoming’s economy.”
Former colleagues of Theobald say he has a record of accomplishment and leadership that will serve UW and Wyoming well.
“I congratulate the University of Wyoming on the appointment of Neil Theobald as interim president,” Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie says. “Neil was an outstanding leader while at Indiana University and an excellent chief financial officer. He has the highest academic values with a deep understanding of the vital role a flagship state university plays in bringing an affordable and accessible first-rate education to students from all backgrounds and walks of life, as well as the role they play as an engine of economic growth in a state.”
“I congratulate the trustees on making an inspired choice in naming Neil Theobald as acting president,” says Larry R. Kaiser, dean of the Temple University School of Medicine and president of the Temple University Health System. “Neil is a superb administrator and communicator who relates well to faculty, staff and, most importantly, to students.”
The UW Board of Trustees’ expectations for the acting president include continuing implementation of UW’s strategic plan, “Breaking Through: 2017-2022,” and driving the university’s current initiatives; continuing outreach and UW’s presence around the state; growing and inspiring a team using calm confidence to bolster the UW community; and working closely with administration, faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders to advance projects that are working well and identify matters that need thoughtful attention.
In considering the selection of acting president, trustees looked for characteristics including an ability to understand and implement UW’s land-grant mission throughout the state; excellent outreach skills to community colleges, school districts, state government and others; an open and transparent communication style; a positive attitude, high level of integrity and complete honesty, on and off campus; a calm demeanor and ability to lead effectively during times of stress; strong management, team leadership and problem-solving skills; and an ability to work with and listen to all stakeholders, including UW administrators, faculty, staff, students, the Board of Trustees and people across the state.
Representatives of UW’s Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Associated Students of UW (ASUW) express support for the appointment.
“I applaud the board’s selection of Neil Theobald as acting president,” Faculty Senate Chair Ken Chestek says. “Neil brings great experience to the position as well as an even temperament and broad knowledge of how a public institution works. We look forward to working with him over the next year.
“I also am very grateful that the trustees included the leadership of ASUW, the Staff Senate and the Faculty Senate in the decision-making process. The board listened carefully to our thoughts on all the candidates and allowed us to engage in the robust and frank discussion of the candidates that led to this decision. We look forward to an open and inclusive process beginning this summer to search for a permanent president,” Chestek adds.
“I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for including all three university senates in the interview process for selecting a new acting president. The senates were provided opportunities to share thoughts and opinions of their constituents,” Staff Senate Chair Renee Ballard says. “All three candidates interviewed well and appeared capable. I’m pleased with the selection of Vice President Theobald as the acting president. I wish him well in his presidency.”
“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be part of the conversations and interviews during the process of appointing the acting president,” ASUW President Jason Wilkins says. “While I do not speak for all students on this campus, I would be remiss if I did not voice my support for the decision to appoint Neil Theobald to the position of acting president. He has shown strong support for students in his past work as president of Temple University, and I believe he will bring that same commitment to the students of UW. The change of presidency is never an easy task for a university, but I am optimistic that Neil is poised to lead us through such difficult times.”
The Board of Trustees has not discussed details of the search for a long-term president, but members have expressed support for an open, transparent search process that involves stakeholders across UW’s constituencies, including Wyoming citizens. Details will be discussed in future open meetings of the board.
“The Board of Trustees is excited for future opportunities for the University of Wyoming, the state of Wyoming and its citizens,” True says. “Once again, the board thanks President Nichols for her service and the positive steps forward she and her administration have made over the past several years. We look forward to a successful transition to the acting president and then developing an inclusive process to select a long-term president.”