U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Names Its First African-American Chancellor

Robert J. Jones, president of the University at Albany, was named on Tuesday as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, pending approval by its Board of Trustees at a July 21 meeting, according to a university news release. Mr. Jones would be the university’s first African-American chancellor since the office was created, in 1967, according to the university.

Mr. Jones had been at Albany, part of the State University of New York system, since 2013, and he was previously at the University of Minnesota, in one capacity or another, for 34 years, according to the news release. At Minnesota, Mr. Jones was a plant physiologist in the department of agronomy and plant genetics who rose through the administrative ranks and eventually served as senior vice president for academic administration for the Minnesota system from 2004 to 2013.

In the release, Mr. Jones referred to his appointment as chancellor as his “dream job” and said he would spend his first 100 days, which would start on October 3, meeting with and listening to faculty members, students, administrators, alumni, and donors.

In addition to his role as chancellor, Mr. Jones would serve as vice president of the University of Illinois system and hold a tenured faculty position in the department of crop sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.

“I have the land-grant mission in my blood,” Mr. Jones said in the release. “I am a product of it. It is what brought me into higher education, from a sharecropping family in Georgia.”

Mr. Jones would replace Barbara J. Wilson, who has served as interim chancellor since August 2015, when Phyllis M. Wise resigned under pressure after widespread criticism of her decision to effectively rescind a job offer to a controversial scholar.

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