Retiring U of I president honored for years of service

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President Bob Easter and Board of Trustees chair Edward McMillan, left, at a board meeting at UIC. Easter retires May 17. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

 

University President Bob Easter, who retires May 17, was awarded the Distinguished Service Medallion by the Board of Trustees at the board meeting May 7 at UIS.

He will be succeeded by incoming President Timothy Killeen May 18.

Easter, who was named president emeritus, was honored for his long career with the university, beginning as a graduate student at the Urbana-Champaign campus in 1973.

Trustees approved $167,200 in incentive-based compensation for Easter for 2014-15 under an annual program created three years ago that ties presidential pay to performance.

The Distinguished Service Medallion is the 29th presented by the board since the honor was created in 1974.

Easter joined the faculty after earning his doctorate in animal science in 1976 from Urbana-Champaign. He served as department head, dean, interim provost, interim chancellor and interim vice chancellor for research at UIUC before he postponed a planned retirement to become university president in 2012.

““His many talents have left a lasting mark on a university regarded among the world’s best, but he will be remembered just as much for his integrity, his kindness and a spirit of service that we hope to instill in every graduate,” said board chair Edward McMillan.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of a university that is known globally for excellence, and to work side-by-side with colleagues who are the best in their fields and share a passion for our students and our future,” Easter said.

Combined with his base salary of $478,558, the incentive payment increases Easter’s total compensation for his final year as president to $645,758, which ranks eighth among presidents of the 14 Big Ten universities.

 

Continuing budget resolution

The board approved a resolution to keep the university operating legally after the fiscal year ends June 30. The annual resolution is required to pay bills and maintain operations until the legislature finalizes a new state budget for the fiscal year 2016 that begins July 1.

The resolution authorizes expenditures based on fiscal 2015 funding levels until the state’s fiscal 2016 budget is signed into law. The university’s total operating budget for fiscal 2015 is $5.6 billion.

In his fiscal 2016 budget blueprint, Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a 31.5 percent funding cut for the state’s public universities. University officials say a reduction of that scale would slash funding by $209 million for the University of Illinois.

 

New Urbana residence hall

A new residence hall set to open in fall 2016 was named Wassaja Hall, honoring the first Native American student and first racial minority to graduate from the University of Illinois.

After graduating from the university in 1884, Wassaja earned his medical degree from Chicago Medical School, a branch of Northwestern University. He is believed to be the first Native American to receive a medical degree from a U.S. university.

He became a national leader for Native American rights, helping to secure land and water rights for the Yavapai that set a precedent for other Native American nations.