James Milliken named the sole finalist for UT System chancellor

The University of Texas System building in Austin on Feb. 7, 2018.
The University of Texas System building in Austin on Feb. 7, 2018.
Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

The University of Texas System has tapped the former chancellor of the City University of New York to be its next leader, unanimously naming James Milliken the sole finalist for the position of chancellor Saturday.

Once confirmed, Milliken will take the reins of the state’s most prominent public university system, which serves more than 235,000 students across its eight academic colleges and six health institutions. The system’s regents will need to officially appoint Milliken at a later meeting, after a state-mandated 21-day waiting period.

Larry Faulkner, who has led the System on an interim basis since former chancellor Admiral Bill McRaven stepped down in May, is expected to keep his position at least until Milliken’s appointment is finalized.

The chancellor of the UT System serves as its chief executive officer, reporting to a nine-member governing board, and overseeing an annual operating budget that tops $18 billion. Board members, who tapped Milliken Saturday after a closed-door meeting that lasted five hours, are simultaneously in the process of reviewing the system’s administrative offices, and some regents have called for system-level initiatives to be curbed.

Milliken’s predecessor, Bill McRaven, led the UT System for three and a half years, after spending 37 years in the military and gaining national prominence for his hand in orchestrating the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. McRaven announced his intention to step down last December, citing health reasons — he has non-life-threatening chronic lymphocytic leukemia — and a desire to pursue other interests, like teaching and writing. In an interview in May, he told The Texas Tribune he’d likely teach a seminar in the area of national security at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs starting next spring.

The months-long search for a new chancellor was overseen by a task force of five current and former regents, with the help of executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

Ahead of Milliken’s appointment, several staff changes were announced at the UT System, including the planned retirements of Executive Director Jana Pankratz and Deputy Chancellor David Daniel. Vice Chancellor Barry McBee, who heads the office of governmental relations, is slated to transition to a chief of staff-type position in the chancellor’s office, starting Sept. 1.

Disclosure: The University of Texas System and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.



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