UW System Board of Regents President Andrew S. Petersen made the announcement today after he consulted with the Board of Regents, which offered uniform support for the idea.
“Gov. Thompson is a statesman who offers the kind of leadership the UW System needs right now,” Petersen said. “I have witnessed his collaborative, yet direct leadership style. He is perfectly suited to serve as interim president.”
Thompson is a well-known champion of Wisconsin’s public universities, and he has called for a renewal of the Wisconsin Idea, the principle that the UW System serves all parts of the state. He is the state’s only four-term governor, and his bipartisan policy proposals have had a lasting impact on the state. Thompson also served as U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services and will bring that experience to the role, which Petersen will be critical as the universities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current UW System President Ray Cross is retiring, effective June 30. An attempt to find his permanent successor stalled after the only candidate withdrew from consideration earlier this month.
The Board of Regents will not commence a search for a permanent president for at least a year. Under the terms of his contract, Thompson will serve until a new president is hired and takes office.