UW's Provost Phyllis Wise to be interim president
The University of Washington Board of Regents has picked Provost Phyllis Wise as interim president as they look for a permanent replacement for Mark Emmert.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Phyllis Wise will take the reins at the University of Washington at a time that storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.
The UW's Board of Regents announced Thursday that Wise, the UW's provost and No. 2 administrator, will become interim president when President Mark Emmert leaves this fall to take the top job at the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Wise, 65, has a strong academic background. A member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, she's considered a leading researcher in women's health and biology. She served as dean of biological sciences at the University of California, Davis, before being hired by Emmert in 2005.
Her biggest challenge in her new role is not likely to come from the classrooms and labs in Seattle, but rather from Olympia. Systemic problems in the state budget have many people predicting higher education will face additional steep cuts next year.
"We are entering the hurricane of hell, financially," said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, who sits on the Higher Education Committee. "The entire family of higher education is under awful and ugly and severe pressure due to this historic budget crisis."
Wise said the state budget ranks among her top priorities. Continued investment in the university is vital for the health of the state, she said. Yet she also acknowledged she faces a learning curve.
"Mark Emmert has done the majority of work with legislators," she said. "I have to first introduce myself and listen to them."
Given the changes at the UW, Washington State University President Elson Floyd may end up taking a leading role in Olympia next year. Floyd has been talking about trying to unite all higher-education institutions under a more cohesive, common agenda.
Wise said other priorities at the UW include implementing a new internal budgeting model, providing the best learning environment possible and maintaining a financial commitment to poorer students.
Wise's most notable achievement at the UW has been launching the College of the Environment in 2009. That effort began with some hiccups but appears to be gathering steam.
She's been under fire since last year for taking a position on the corporate board of Nike, which has a large contract with the UW and is criticized over labor issues abroad. In an attempt to put that debate to rest, Wise announced publicly for the first time Thursday that she has been donating all her Nike compensation toward UW scholarships and will continue to do so. In the past, Wise said her philanthropy was a private matter.
"I just didn't want that to be an issue that deters from the important work that needs to be done, and that I hope to lead," she said in explaining her decision to go public.
Carlyle, who in the past has been critical of Wise for taking the Nike post, said he feels "the case is closed" given Wise's announcement.
As interim president, Wise's compensation will be $621,000, which includes a salary of $471,000 and deferred compensation of $150,000. Her total compensation as provost was $559,000. Emmert's total annual compensation was $905,000 — although he will lose some of his deferred compensation now that he's leaving.
Wise said she's not a candidate for the permanent role of president. A UW search panel hopes to find a replacement by the fall of 2011.
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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