Sullivan named University of Vermont president

Tom Sullivan stepped down as the U’s provost in February this year.

Tom Sullivan listens to a presentation during a Board of Regents meeting Dec. 9 2011 at McNamara Alumni Center.

Moira DuCharme, Daily File Photo

Tom Sullivan listens to a presentation during a Board of Regents meeting Dec. 9 2011 at McNamara Alumni Center.

Greta Kaul

Tom Sullivan, the University of Minnesota’s former senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, will serve as the University of Vermont’s 26th president, UVM announced Wednesday morning.

Sullivan will begin his new job July 15.

UVM, located in Burlington, is a small public research university with an undergraduate population of about 10,500 —about a third of the University of Minnesota’s — and a graduate student population of about 1,500.

Before introducing Sullivan to the UVM community, Robert Cioffi, chairman of the presidential search committee, called the search a “smashing success,” lauding Sullivan as a good listener who thrives on new ideas.

As UVM expands its focus on business, medical and engineering fields, Sullivan’s commitment to maintaining a strong liberal arts education stuck out, said William Vitagliano, the vice president of UVM’s Student Government Association and member of the Presidential Search Committee.

Sullivan served as the University of Minnesota Law School dean from 1995 to 2002. He taught law at the University before becoming senior vice president and provost — the University’s second-in-command — in 2004.

 “I think he has terrific experience. He’s been law school dean. He’s been the provost of one of the largest institutions in the country and done well,” President Eric Kaler told the Minnesota Daily Wednesday. “I think his record is very, very strong. He’s a good communicator.”

As provost, Sullivan oversaw academics at the University, from curriculum changes to hiring deans. Before coming to the University, Sullivan was the dean of the University of Arizona College of Law and associate dean at Washington University in St. Louis.

Sullivan and his wife Leslie, a UVM alumna, will move to Vermont in July, where they will live in the presidential mansion. He will take over for Interim President John Bramley, who took office after Dan Fogel stepped down last year.

Sullivan was introduced to the school Wednesday at a welcome ceremony.

“UVM’s mission and vision align very well with my own experience, values, and aspirations. In so many ways, the position of president of the University of Vermont is a natural progression and fit for me,” Sullivan said.

Taking the stage, Sullivan laid out four core principles to move UVM forward: financial access and affordability, a rich curriculum, a strong research infrastructure and engagement with the Vermont community to promote the state’s needs. He said he would promote administrative efficiencies.

It’s a natural progression for a provost, as second-in-command, to seek a presidential spot, said Jerlando Jackson, a professor of higher and postsecondary education at the University of Wisconsin — Madison.

University of Minnesota Presidents Nils Hasselmo, Bob Bruininks and Kaler all served as provosts before becoming president.

“Tom Sullivan was one of my closest advisors and was a key member of my leadership team during my nine years as president,” Bruininks said in a statement Wednesday.

In September, Sullivan told the Daily he intended to return to the University Law School after a year-long sabbatical. After a nationwide search, Karen Hanson replaced Sullivan Feb. 1.

Last month, Sullivan was announced as a contender for the UVM presidency. He was one of five finalists to visit Vermont for interviews.

“I think [students] feel the affect the changes he put in place,” said Robert McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

In working closely with Sullivan for the last five years, McMaster said he suspected Sullivan would become a president, given his skill set and resume. He noted especially Sullivan’s role in promoting financial access, grad school redesign, faculty recruitment and consolidation of the honors program.

Sullivan’s salary plus deferred compensation at the University were about $440,000. At UVM, he will make about $447,000 in pay and deferred compensation annually his first three years, according to a statement from Cioffi.

“His benefits at Minnesota, such as retirement contributions, disability insurance, and life insurance, significantly exceed UVM’s offerings,” Cioffi said.

—Dina Elrashidy contributed to this report