Former Gov. Tommy Thompson named interim president of UW System

MADISON, Wis. — Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson has been named interim President of the University of Wisconsin System.

The Board of Regents made the announcement on Friday.

“His experience working in crisis situations, whether it be 9/11, anthrax, worldwide pandemics, he’s been tested,” said Andrew Peterson, the UW System Regents president. “He’s been proven. He’s an exceptional leader. I think there’s great opportunity for Thompson to lead right from the get go.”

Peterson said the board plans to keep Thompson in the position for 18 months, and regents will begin the search for a permanent replacement in about one year. He said Thompson will help put the system in a good position as it deals with multimillion dollar budget shortfalls and the return to campus during a pandemic.

“I believe a year from now we’ll be able to demonstrate clearly that the UW System is not only stable but is solid and competitive and one of the best systems in the nation,” Peterson said.

Thompson served as governor from 1987 to 2001, the longest term in the state’s history. From 2001 to 2005, he was appointed to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services by Former President George W. Bush.

Thompson has been a big supporter of education throughout his time in office. He received his Bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he was awarded an honorary degree from the institutuion in 2016.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, praised the hire, saying he could not be happier with the pick.

“As we face unprecedented times there is nobody better to step in and make sure Wisconsin’s prized universities continue to thrive,” Fitzgerald said.

Current UW System President Ray Cross announced plans to retire back in October, which led to a months-long search for a successor.

University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen was the only finalist for the position to emerge. On June 12, he withdrew his name for consideration.