UConn names Austin as interim president

The University of Connecticut turned to a familiar leader in picking an interim president Friday.

Former UConn President Philip E. Austin will return to that office to replace Michael Hogan, who is leaving to become president of the University of Illinois.

The university’s Board of Trustees asked Austin to fill in while it conducts a national search for a permanent replacement.

“During this period of transition, it is essential that the university have an experienced leader to guide us forward, particularly as we face budgetary challenges and continue working to secure a renovated John Dempsey Hospital and new patient tower at the Health Center,” board Chairman Lawrence McHugh wrote in an e-mail to the university.

“Phil Austin has a deep commitment to UConn, pride in what we have achieved and the desire to do whatever he can to ensure our continued growth and success,” McHugh said.

Hogan caught trustees by surprise last week when he announced his departure after only three years on the job.

Hogan came to UConn in 2007, following Austin as head of the 29,500-student university.

During his 11 years as president, Austin presided over a major transformation of the university – a surging number of applicants, an infusion of private donors and increasing research support. Much of the change was the result of $2.8 billion in campus renovations, mainly from state projects known as UConn 2000 and 21st Century UConn.

His presidency also hit some rough spots, including the discovery of numerous safety code and building violations on campus, questions by state auditors about bidding procedures, and cost overruns on construction projects.

Since stepping-down as president, Austin has been a faculty member at UConn teaching courses in higher education leadership.

“Serving as the president of UConn was greatly rewarding and I’m happy to assist the university now as it undergoes a transition in leadership,” Austin said in a press release from the university. “I look forward to working closely again with the board, our faculty, staff, alumni and students as well as our state and federal elected officials. All have contributed significantly to UConn’s impressive progress in recent years.”

Austin said he will not be a candidate for the permanent position. His salary will be $370,000 a year.

Austin was chancellor at the University of Alabama system before coming to UConn in 1996.