The University Alumni Association on Wednesday turned its annual meeting over to festivities honoring outgoing University President Nils Hasselmo.
“I think it’s wonderful, just wonderful that so many people came out like this,” said Hasselmo, whose term as president will expire June 30. Hasselmo is the University’s 13th president and has held office for eight years.
About 1,400 alumni and other well-wishers showed up for the occasion, said Tom Garrison, communications director for the association. The event was held at Northrup Auditorium after a buffet on the Mall.
President-designate Mark Yudof told the crowd that Hasselmo’s presidency will be a “tough act to follow, but also an opportunity to build from a solid base.”
The accomplishments of the Hasselmo administration, said Yudof, include higher graduation rates, more students residing on campus and students graduating more quickly and taking heavier course loads.
Yudof also said that he supports Hasselmo’s initiative to raise faculty salaries to make them competitive with those at other universities.
Hasselmo said that after leaving office, he plans to take a leave of absence. He will then return to his old post as a professor in the Scandinavian studies department.
“I haven’t taught any classes since becoming president,” he said.
Hasselmo received two ceremonial checks for $100,000 each. One check will help fund an undergraduate scholarship in Hasselmo’s name. The other will furnish a meeting room to be named in Hasselmo’s honor in the planned Gateway alumni and visitor center; groundbreaking for the building will be held in November.
“I think Hasselmo has done a good job, but it’s time for new blood,” said Julie Chuba, a secretary for the extension office who attended the event. “I think hiring from the outside is a little better because it brings in a fresher perspective.”
Yudof was a provost at the University of Texas before the Board of Regents picked him to be University president.
Chuba described this year’s meeting as “more dramatic” than in the past because of its theatrical use of lighting.
As the crowd took their seats, the auditorium was darkened. Spotlights were then shined on the stage, where those who would speak were assembled.
In the past, the alumni banquet has been held at the Field House. Organizers said the move to Northrop’s more compact seating made the crowd seem larger. “In the Field House, it swallows up people,” Chuba said.
Entertainment was provided by radio host Garrison Keillor, an alumnus from the class of 1966.