Leadership & Governance

U. of Virginia Names Michigan Provost as Its New President

Dan Addison, U. of Virginia

Teresa A. Sullivan, who will become the U. of Virginia's first female president, says she will work on ensuring the university's long-term financial health.
January 11, 2010

Teresa A. Sullivan, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, will become the president of the University of Virginia on August 1 when John T. Casteen III retires, the university announced Monday. Ms. Sullivan will be Virginia's first female president and its eighth over all.

Ms. Sullivan, a sociologist who specializes in labor-force demography, has more than 15 years of experience as an administrator at large public universities. Before coming to Michigan in 2006, Ms. Sullivan served as vice provost and vice president and dean of graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the University of Texas System. She also was a professor and chair of the sociology department at Texas and is a professor of sociology at Michigan.

John O. Wynne, who is rector of the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors and served as chair for the presidential search, said the board was drawn to Ms. Sullivan's experience in leading large public universities and her knowledge of the inner workings of such institutions, including academics, athletics, finance, health care, and risk management.

"She is undaunted by the challenges and has a deep understanding of the complexities," Mr. Wynne said in a written statement released by the university. "She believes in public higher education and is committed to leading our university and to building on its excellence."

She will receive an annual salary of $485,000, deferred compensation of $180,000, and a car allowance of $15,000, for a total compensation of $680,000. According to IRS data published by The Chronicle, Mr. Casteen, who served as Virginia's president for two decades, received total compensation of $797,048 in 2007-8.

At Ann Arbor, Ms. Sullivan serves as chief budget officer and oversees $1.5-billion of the Michigan flagship's $5.4-billion budget. She helped the university cut operating expenditures by $135-million, mostly through unglamorous but creative cost-cutting measures such as space-utilization and health-care savings that were designed to preserve funds for the academic core. Last year, Ms. Sullivan started a "Prudence Panel," made up of faculty members, students, and administrators, to advise her on areas in which the university could trim expenses or operate more efficiently.

The University of Virginia's financial situation is one of the first issues she plans to tackle. The State of Virginia, like many other states, is facing a budget deficit and is cutting funds for higher education. "It's certainly the challenge of the era for higher education," Ms Sullivan said. The United States has built a system that is the envy of the rest of the world, but "if we're not careful we're going to lose it."

Ms. Sullivan said it was too soon to speak about Virginia's budget situation and whether what she did at Michigan would work at Virginia, and she plans to closely study the university's finances before making any decisions. In the meantime, she says, she still has a University of Michigan budget to put together.

Mary Sue Coleman, president at Ann Arbor, said in an announcement on Monday that Ms. Sullivan had provided "a level of academic and budgetary acumen that has solidified and advanced the university at all levels." Ms. Coleman called Ms. Sullivan a stellar administrator and distinguished academic who was respected for her inclusive management style and strong leadership.

During her welcome remarks on Monday, Ms. Sullivan said she wants to create a "safe, stimulating, and rich" environment for students and will be a careful steward of the university founded by Thomas Jefferson, and of the money from donors and state taxpayers. "Let's work hard," she said.

Unlike her predecessor, Mr. Casteen, Ms. Sullivan is not from Virginia and did not attend the University of Virginia. She grew up in Little Rock, Ark., and Jackson, Miss., and earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

In her remarks, however, she highlighted the Virginia roots of her husband, Douglas Laycock. Mr. Laycock, a noted legal scholar on remedy and religious liberty, is on the faculty of Michigan's law school and will join the faculty of the University of Virginia's School of Law. The couple, who met as undergraduates at Michigan State, have two adult sons.