The University of Illinois system has hired State University of New York Vice Chancellor for Research Timothy L. Killeen as its next president.
The university announced Wednesday that the 62-year-old Killeen will become president when current President Robert Easter retires in June.
The 67-year-old Easter became president in 2012 during a period of turmoil.
At a meeting Wednesday morning in Chicago, U of I Board of Trustees Chair Chris Kennedy called Easter a "tough act to follow."
Both of his predecessors, Michael Hogan and B. Joseph White, resigned under pressure. Easter is credited by many with overseeing a relatively calm period.
But Killeen faces uncertainties over dwindling state support for the three university campuses and rising tuition.
Killeen previously was a University of Michigan faculty member and administrator and worked at the National Science Foundation. His research focused on geophysics and space sciences. He's received three awards from NASA.
Kennedy says Killeen's academic history "mirrors the mission of the University of Illinois" and called him "one of the great living researchers" in the world.
Killeen will earn a $600,000 base salary, plus a $100,000 performance bonus. He was picked among six candidates the Board interviewed, out of an even larger pool of 200. The search began earlier this year and lasted eight months.
Killeen said this appointment to U of I president will be his last job and says he wants to dedicate his presidency to the students of the University of Illinois. Killeen referred to himself as a "genetic optimist" ... not a field of science, but a nod to his positivity, he said.
The co-chair of the committee that sought out the U of I’s next president says it was important to hire someone whose skill set includes areas outside of education.
U of I Trustee Pamela Strobel said the committee believes Timothy Killeen was the best candidate to address financial challenges in Illinois, and build on his research experience at the State University of New York:
“And where innovation, experiments, new technologies are developed, and in turn, that contributes to the better health and economy of the state of Illinois," she said. "And so we wanted someone who lives and breathes those notions.”
In New York, Killeen launched an initiative to lure in start-up technology companies. Strobel said he can bring those talents to the U of I, particularly dealing with the UI Labs and digital labs projects.