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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Retirement can wait

Newly-named President Gene Sander sits in his office in the Forbes building on Monday. Sander will assume the duties of president while a long-term replacement is sought for Robert Shelton, who is leaving to become executive director of the Fiesta Bowl.
Newly-named President Gene Sander sits in his office in the Forbes building on Monday. Sander will assume the duties of president while a long-term replacement is sought for Robert Shelton, who is leaving to become executive director of the Fiesta Bowl.

Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Gene Sander has seen five presidents during his near quarter-century of work at the UA. Now he will be the sixth.

The Arizona Board of Regents named Sander interim UA president during a conference call on Saturday. Sander takes the helm from outgoing President Robert Shelton, who accepted a position as the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl on June 13.

This is not Sander’s first experience bridging a gap in leadership. He also served as UA provost for a year after George Davis retired in 2007, up to the point where current Provost Meredith Hay was chosen to fill the position.

Though Sander’s tenure as president may be for an interim amount of time, he made it clear that he does not view himself as an interim president, nor does he plan to serve as a stopgap for Shelton’s official replacement.

“”Please know that I will not be a caretaker,”” Sander wrote in a statement to the campus community. “”There will be no inertia. There will be no quiet year of waiting for the next president to come on board. We are going full speed, and we are going forward.””

Sander praised Shelton’s work as president, namely his implementation of the Arizona Assurance program, which provides financial aid, tutoring and mentoring resources to underprivileged students, and his leadership during the ongoing economic hardship in the state.

Despite his more than two decades of experience at the UA, Sander admits there are topics that he has not needed to know about as a dean that will be vital as president. Namely, Sander said he would need to study topics pertaining to the Arizona Board of Regents’ enterprise model, including its 30-some metrics for measuring institutional progress and performance and the debate over how best to fund the universities: a performance-based allotment or per-student vouchers.

Luckily, Sander said, the transition should be smooth, thanks to the foundation left by Shelton and the talents of other administration members.

“”This is a fundamentally solid university,”” Sander said. “”Does it have its hiccups? Yes. Does Harvard have its hiccups? Of course. Does the University of Texas have its? You bet. But fundamentally, I feel that a university is, at its very core, a collection of talented faculty and students. And if you have that, I’ll get you the buildings.””

Sander acknowledged the financial difficulties the UA has experienced over the last few years, mostly as a result of falling appropriations from the state, including a $78 million cut last year alone.

To address repeated cuts, Sander said it was necessary to show the Legislature the value the UA brings the state.

“”I’m a college professor at heart so I’m not used to marketing, but universities are like that, rely on that,”” Sander said. “”We need to do a good marketing job so that the people of Arizona know what we offer and the benefits we bring.””

Anne Mariucci, the outgoing chair of the Arizona Board of Regents, said she also expects the transition to be a smooth one.

“”Dr. Sander is not only an accomplished academic leader, he is also a very well-respected member of the UA and Tucson community who will easily transition into the role of president,”” Mariucci said in a release. “”I am very confident that Dr. Sander will be a steady hand at the helm during our search for a permanent president.””

James Allen, the president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said he was looking forward to working with Sander to progress the interests of students and maintain the UA’s institutional quality.

The regents have also begun a national search to find a permanent replacement for Shelton. Regents Dennis DeConcini and Rick Myers will helm the search committee and a new president is expected to be named sometime next summer.

Sander will officially assume the duties of president on Aug. 1. For now, he turns his attention to more pressing matters, namely moving his family back from a planned retirement in Texas and, of course, reserving a parking spot for next year.

“”I may need to ask them for a bigger space next year,”” he said, laughing.

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