University of Connecticut President Michael Hogan’s announcement that he will resign to become president of the University of Illinois caught university and state officials by surprise Tuesday.

University trustees reportedly learned of the resignation only hours before it was publicly announced.

Hogan is leaving after just three years in office, the shortest tenure for a UConn president since George A. Works resigned in 1930 after one year.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued a statement saying she was “deeply disappointed that he is leaving the university at such a critical time, particularly on the heels of the landmark financial investment we have just made to the UConn Health Center.”

The announcement came only a week after the state legislature approved a $362 million plan to renovate and expand the UConn Health Center.

“We had assumed President Hogan’s commitment to UConn was a long term one; it should have been,” Rell said. “However, we wish him well in his new endeavor and view this as an opportunity to attract a top-tier college president who will commit himself or herself – heart and soul – for many years to our flagship state university, guiding it and shaping it as an institution second to none in the nation.”

In Tuesday’s announcement, UConn said Hogan’s tenure was marked by accomplishments such as an increase in federal grants, better recruitment of minority students, and an increase in the quality of incoming students. Hogan’s presidency, however, also was marked by controversy, including criticism of the cost of renovations of the president’s office.

Attempts to reach UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence McHugh late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Hogan came to UConn in 2007 from the University of Iowa, where he was executive vice president and provost. Before that, he was executive dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State University.

He will assume duties in July at the University of Illinois, a school of more than 71,000 students – more than twice the size of UConn – on campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.

In a statement issued by UConn, Hogan said, “UConn is a wonderful university. I’ve made many lifetime friends here, enjoyed working with a top-notch administrative team, and celebrated the many accomplishments of our faculty, students and staff.  It’s with a degree of sadness that I’m leaving, but I can do so knowing that we’ve accomplished many of the goals that the Board of Trustees set out for me when I began my term as UConn’s president three years ago.”

Hogan will step down at UConn on June 30.

“It’s good that he’s going back to the Midwest because it was not a good fit in Connecticut,” said state Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, co-chairman of the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. “He’ll be more comfortable there than in the state universities of New England, where the legislature does play a more important role. . . .I had the feeling he grew up in a system where he was not used to being challenged.”

Some students also have been critical of Hogan, contending he has not done enough to protect the quality of the university in a slumping economy.

“Classes are expanding, and the faculty is not increasing,” said Jason Ortiz, a senior from Norwich and a columnist for the Daily Campus student newspaper. “I was a little shocked” by the resignation, he said. “I see it a little bit as running away from a lot of problems.”

At the University of Illinois, interim President Stanley Ikenberry said he was ecstatic about the appointment. “Those of us at Illinois have followed and admired Mike Hogan’s academic career for some time.  I admire all he has been able to accomplish and look forward to his arrival in Illinois,” he said.

University of Illinois Board of Trustees Chair Christopher G. Kennedy added: “President Hogan is an extraordinary leader in American higher education.  The University of Illinois is thrilled with the prospect that he and his wife Virginia will return to their roots in the Midwest.  We look forward to his seasoned leadership talent and extensive experience to strengthen the excellence of our university.”

U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut issued a statement saying Hogan “has continued the University of Connecticut’s long tradition of excellence.

“His leadership at the University and his ability to work with students, alumni, administrators and government officials will be difficult to replace. However, I am confident that the next President of the University will be able to pick up where President Hogan left off and continue to build upon UConn’s reputation as a world class university.”

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