Friday, September 04, 2009

UI board of trustees complete

By Bethany Jaeger
After months of being under a cloud of an alleged scandal that led seven trustees to resign, the University of Illinois board of trustees now has all positions filled before its first meeting of the school year.

Gov. Pat Quinn appointed five new trustees this morning, filling a total of seven seats that were vacated. Two trustees refused to resign and remain on the board. The board has been under public scrutiny since June, when The Chicago Tribune exposed a clout-heavy admissions process that favored more than 800 students over some more qualified applicants.

The five new trustees, appointed to six-year terms, are all University of Illinois alumni. They include:
  • Karen Hasara of Springfield (Republican) is a former mayor, state legislator (House and Senate, 1980-1993), local mass transit trustee, circuit court clerk, county board member, real estate executive and teacher.
  • Timothy Koritz of Roscoe (Republican) is an anesthesiologist, a former U.S. Air Force flight surgeon and officer in charge of a space shuttle emergency medical response team.
  • Edward McMillan of Greenville (Republican) is an agribusiness executive. He also is a reappointed trustee. Quinn appointed him in March, but he never received Senate confirmation.
  • Pamela Strobel of Winnetka (Democrat) is an Exelon Corp. executive and lawyer.
  • Carlos Tortolero of Berwyn (Democrat) is founder of the National Museum of Mexican Art and a longtime arts advocate.

They join Christopher Kennedy, a Democrat and Chicago’s Merchandise Mart Properties president, and Orland Park’s Lawrence Oliver II, chief legal counsel for the Boeing Company. He lists himself as an "independent." Quinn appointed them August 26.

Democrats Frances Carroll and James Montgomery remain. Quinn said last week he would not force them to resign because he wanted to avoid a lengthy legal battle over his executive powers to do so. Both were appointed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Frances’ term is set to expire January 2011, Montgomery’s January 2013.

Former federal Judge Abner Mikva, who led Quinn's special panel to investigate the allegations, said yesterday that the governor handled the situation well. “It would be foolish to waste the resources engaging in a long court fight to remove [Trustee Montgomery] and Trustee Carroll. They didn’t do much while they were on the board, so I don’t think they’ll do much harm if they stay another year or two. It just leaves them with two spots that could be filled by better trustees.”

However, Mikva said he anticipated the board’s and the university’s quick and complete recovery.

New trustee Hasara said she did not think Frances’ and Montgomery’s continued service would be an issue. “It’s what it is,” she said this morning. “And I can only believe that they, like the rest of us, have what’s good for the university at heart. And they will cooperate as all the other board members in trying to solve this problem.”

She does expect the job to be a challenge. “But I don’t want to overestimate that challenge. I think that this looks to me like it’s a wonderful board of very, very competent people. And I feel very confident that this board will be able to get this solved and get it behind us because there are so many important things going on that the campuses of the University of Illinois, and no one wants to see something like this drag out.”

McMillan, whom Quinn appointed in March to fill a vacancy, said he attended only a few trustee meetings before resigning at the recommendation of Quinn’s investigative panel. He said he had no angst when the Tribune’s investigation broke because he had no part in the process and was never mentioned as being involved. He resigned but informed Quinn he would like to continue serving on the board if the governor saw fit.

“I’m pleased the governor has the confidence in me to let me continue,” he said this morning.

Going forward, McMillan said he was pleased to see such a diverse group of trustees from various professions and geographies. While having so many new members without a chairperson is going to pose challenges, he said he expects the first few items of business to include electing a new chair, establishing a new code of conduct and developing new ethics standards for the board. Those could be on top of the state and university ethics rules already in place, he sad.

“The most important thing is the university and making sure the integrity of this university and its global, world-class capability and research and education and outreach is reinforced and sustained,” he said, “so there’s no question going forward of, ‘Do we deserve the reputation that we’ve had in the past, and can we earn it in the future?’ I think we’ve all got to form together as a group and make sure we do that.”

The board has 13 members, including the governor and three students. No more than five can be from the same political party. The board oversees the university’s three campuses in Chicago, Champaign-Urbana and Springfield.

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