Easter Looks Back At 40 Years At The U of I

U of I President Robert Easter in his office on the Urbana campus.

U of I President Robert Easter in his office on the Urbana campus. He steps down from the job after weekend commencement ceremonies.

(Jeff Bossert/WILL)

A little less than three years after taking the helm of the University of Illinois system, Bob Easter will retire as an administrator.

“It’s a bittersweet moment.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the job,” he said.  “And I can’t tell you much I’m looking forward to having a life (laughing.)"

That’s not to say there aren’t things Easter won’t miss.

“We are at an interesting time in higher education globally,” he said.  “Being a part of that conversation - not only contributing, hopefully, but also listening and hearing what others opinions are.  It’s a time of some risk about our future, not knowing where things are going to land. And that adds a bit of an edge to it, and that’s sometimes exhilarating.”

Before serving as an administrator on the Urbana campus, Easter was formerly a professor and dean at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. 

He was also an interim chancellor and provost, around the time of the 2009 U of I admissions scandal that brought about the resignation of former president Joseph White. 

And in 2012, Michael Hogan also resigned as president amid criticism from faculty.  That’s when then-U of I Trustees chair Chris Kennedy asked Easter to lead the university.

“I remember thinking, ‘what have I got myself into?” he said.   

Kennedy had been very blunt – while Easter envisioned a 6-month interim assignment, Kennedy said it needed to be 2 or 3 years.

“The expectation of an interim is you’ll just keep things moving,” Easter said.  “Expectations of someone with a full title is you’ll make the decisions and move ahead.”

Easter said he won't miss having to make budgetary cuts that ultimately affect people.

On Monday, following weekend commencement ceremonies, President-designate Timothy Killeen will take over.

Meanwhile, Easter still has a position on the Urbana campus.  With his ties to the school of ACES, his projects include serving an advisor for a program that aims to provide soybeans as a food source in Africa, as well as a project funded by Archer Daniels Midland to reduce post-harvest food waste in other parts of the world.

He also wants more time to spend with his two children and six grandchildren.

Story source: WILL