At a regular meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees, University of Akron President Luis M. Proenza announced a transition plan to complete his presidency on June 30, 2014, and take on a full-time faculty role after more than 15 years of leading the University through significant growth and transformation. The Board unanimously approved the plan and Board Chair Richard W. Pogue announced the creation of a privately endowed Chair in Higher Education and the Economy, modeled after Dr. Proenza’s most important contributions to the University. The Board of Trustees agreed to lead the effort to fund the Chair with privately donated monies.
Dr. Luis M. Proenza
“President Proenza has created a lasting imprint on this University, the City of Akron, and the entire region,” Pogue said. “He truly defines what it means to be a transformative leader, taking this University from a commuter school to a landscape for learning that is producing new generations of innovative and entrepreneurial contributors to the region’s economy and beyond. Luis has literally been the driving force behind what we call ‘the energy of innovation,’ that has earned national and international notice for our university.”
Proenza, who came to UA at the end of 1998, is serving the longest continuous presidency at any of Ohio’s public universities. In recent years, he has discussed with Trustees a strategy for a seamless transition to new leadership and a new role that would allow him to continue to contribute to higher education and student success.
Proenza will become President Emeritus and, in addition to his current tenured professorship in biology, will be named University Professor in the Office of Academic Affairs. The latter appointment recognizes his talents in teaching across disciplines and colleges, including business, education, and science fields. To further recognize Proenza’s ongoing commitment to higher education and the economy, the Board of Trustees has commenced to raise $1 million in private donations to endow a new Trustee’s Chair in Higher Education and the Economy. Proenza will be the inaugural chair holder on July 1, 2016. Immediately following the completion of his presidency on June 30, 2014, he will begin a sabbatical he earned after serving as president for ten years.
“I am gratified by the Board’s ongoing support and extraordinary recognition,” said Proenza. “What we have built together over the last 15 years—together with staff and faculty and our students—is a vibrant university well-positioned for continued growth. Through research and teaching, innovation and education, and an unwavering focus on student success, this University is adding economic value to our communities and enriching lives. I look back with pride and look forward to contributing for many years to come, to expand the knowledge base, influence, impact and reputation of The University of Akron. Moreover, I look forward to my final year as president, pledging to the Board of Trustees and the University community my strong commitment to address the challenges and opportunities that will best position this University for new leadership.”
According to the announcement made by Pogue today, the prestigious Trustee’s Chair in Higher Education and the Economy is intended for:
It is assumed that Proenza will hold the chair for at least ten years. When he no longer holds the chair, it shall be renamed the Luis M. Proenza Chair in Higher Education and the Economy.
Other terms of the agreement between Proenza and the Board call for him to receive an increase in base salary on Jan. 1, 2014 from the current $425,000 to $500,000 during his final six months as President. His current salary of $425,000 has remained unchanged since Jan. 1, 2012. He will be entitled to a sabbatical leave equivalent to one year, with the base salary of $500,000 being the maximum payment during the sabbatical. When he returns to campus to assume his new role as a full-time tenured University Professor, his salary will be reduced to 65% of his final base pay (or the salary of the highest paid full time faculty member at The University of Akron, whichever is greater). Proenza agreed to the 65% level in the new agreement in lieu of the 80% figure to which he was entitled under his original contract. The agreement remains in force until the end of 2026, as long as Proenza remains a valued contributor to the university under the terms of the agreement. In addition, an annual privately funded stipend of $50,000 will be provided as the endowed chair holder, beginning July 1, 2016.
“Back in 1998, when the Board initially negotiated President Proenza’s contract, they were focused on securing a transformational leader. They offered a very competitive compensation package to attract that type of professional, and Luis has indeed been well worth the investment,” Pogue said.
“In our recent discussions, Luis was more than willing to revisit the terms of his contract in order to both save the university significant dollars over the long term, while securing some personal flexibility in his faculty employment through potential leaves of absence without pay," Pogue added.
For example, although his original agreement provided for indefinite tenure upon returning to the faculty, the new agreement has a stipulated end date of July 1, 2026, thereby effectively terminating his tenure at that time. Taken together, the changes agreed to for Proenza’s post-presidential employment as a faculty member potentially save the University up to $3 million, compared to the original terms.
Pogue indicated that a special meeting of the Board will be held in September to begin the search process for the next university president. The full Board of Trustees will serve as the presidential search committee, with opportunity for substantial input from various campus constituencies, in accord with existing University rules.
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Dr. Proenza has been discussing the timing and nature of his plans with the Board of Trustees for the last few years. Announcing his transition plans now provides the Board with ample opportunity to search for a successor and to make the transition as smooth as possible.
While the Board of Trustees will lead the search for a new president, Dr. Proenza will continue to steer the University toward achieving its strategic goals stated in Vision 2020. There is much work to be done in his 15th year as University President, and he will also focus on preparing the senior team for a new leader. When he completes his presidency, Dr. Proenza will begin a one-year sabbatical—something contractually agreed to several years ago and customary in higher education.
After he completes his sabbatical, Dr. Proenza will return to full-time teaching as a tenured University Professor. That title, serving in the Office of Academic Affairs, will provide an opportunity for him to teach across disciplines and colleges. Though he will continue to hold his current rank as Professor of Biology, he is more likely to concentrate on other areas of higher education, delivering lectures, participating in seminars, and teaching courses in various disciplines. His credit hour load will be commensurate with that of a nine-month full-time tenured faculty member. He will work with the Provost, deans and faculty to share with students the knowledge and skills he has amassed over many years, including his expertise in the business of higher education, innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship. He is also expected to devote substantial time to the duties of the new chair created by the Board. As President Emeritus, he will not be a member of the Akron-AAUP bargaining unit.
It will be the role of the Board of Trustees to define the qualities of the next President. By University Rule 3359-1-05, the entire Board, including student trustees, constitutes the presidential search committee; four voting trustees will serve as an advisory and screening committee. The search committee will also involve the faculty and other appropriate constituencies, as defined by the rule. The Board will hold a special meeting in September, 2013, to discuss next steps in the search process. As the process moves along, the campus will be kept informed of major developments in the search for a new leader.
The Board felt it was a most appropriate way to recognize Dr. Proenza’s contributions over fifteen years to establish a privately-funded endowed chair in the areas where he has left his greatest legacy. The creation of this chair is responsive to suggestions by many alumni and friends of the university to recognize Dr. Proenza’s contributions in a significant way. Dr. Proenza has dedicated his career to building The Akron Model, with the research university as a vital force in regional economic growth.
The New York Times recently credited Dr. Proenza with helping to instigate the revival of the City of Akron by strategically creating a dynamic academic community and graduating a highly skilled talent pool required by the new economy.
The Board will raise the funding for this chair; no public funds will be used. The chair will provide a stipend of at least $50,000 to the chair holder.
It is expected that Dr. Proenza will hold the chair for ten years. After he no longer holds the chair, it will be renamed in his honor.
The new agreement between President Proenza and the Board calls for him to receive an annual base salary of $500,000, beginning January 1, 2014, an increase from his current base of $425,000, which became effective January 1, 2012. There will be no salary review and no merit increases for 2013 or 2014, nor will he receive any bonus payments in 2014 or 2015. He remains eligible under his contract to receive a retention bonus ($60,000), and performance bonuses (up to $65,000) for work completed during 2012 and 2013. After his sabbatical, when he returns to campus as a tenured full time professor, his salary will be equal to the highest paid full time faculty member or will be reduced to 65% of his base pay (whichever is greater). This salary reduction is not uncommon in academic presidential transitions to faculty, and represents a larger reduction than previously agreed to (from 80% of base pay in retirement according to the original contract, to 65% of base pay in the new agreement). Proenza’s credit load will be commensurate with that of a nine-month full-time tenured faculty member. His tenure rights will expire no later than July 1, 2026. When his term as President ends, he will return the car provided under his previous agreements; he will also vacate the President’s University Residence on or before September 1, 2014.
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