McRaven named sole finalist for UT System chancellor


Photo Credit: AP Photo/ The University of Texas at Austin, Marsha Miller

The UT System Board of Regents named Naval Adm. William McRaven the sole finalist to replace Francisco Cigarroa as System chancellor at a meeting on Tuesday.

McRaven, 58, is known for overseeing the operation resulting in the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. A UT alumnus, McRaven will retire from his current position as U.S. special operations commander in August.

"We are pleased that he would agree to forgo a host of gainful private sector employment opportunities in order to lead UT System in a time of exciting transition and unparralled growth," board Chairman Paul Foster said during the meeting.

Foster was part of the search committee for the new chancellor along with vice chairmen Steve Hicks and Gene Powell. Although McRaven does not have a background in higher education, Foster said the committee determined the chancellor position does not require one.

"This job is a huge administration job that requires admininstration skills and leadership skills," Foster said. "We felt that the chancellor’s role was more one of management than academia."

Foster said McRaven will officially be appointed chancellor at the August 20-21 regents meeting. Under state law, the regents must name any finalists for chancellor at least 21 days before an appointment is made. Foster said McRaven's salary would be finalized at that time as well.

Once officially appointed by the regents, McRaven will begin his tenure as chancellor in January 2015. In a statement, McRaven said he is excited to return to Austin.

"I thank the Regents for their trust and confidence in my leadership and I look forward to this extraordinary responsibility with enthusiasm and gratitude,” McRaven said.

In May, McRaven delivered the spring commencement address at the University, sharing life lessons he learned from Navy SEAL basic training. A YouTube video of the speech has received more than 2 million views.

"If take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up – if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today," McRaven said in his speech.

A San Antonio native, McRaven graduated from the University in 1977 with a degree in journalism before joining the Navy. He later received his master's degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. In 2012, McRaven received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Exes alumni association.

Reporting to the board of regents, the chancellor oversees the System – made up of 15 institutions – and is responsible for its operations.

The transition in leadership comes after the System has been the subject of controversy over the past few years. One of the board's regents, Wallace Hall, has been the subject of a House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations investigation for more than a year and could be the first nonelected official in the state's history to be impeached. Hall has been accused by state legislators of overstepping his authority as a regent and working to remove University President William Powers Jr. from his position. 

In early July, Cigarroa received negative backlash from University students, faculty and alumni for requesting Powers to resign by October. Cigarroa cited communication and trust issues with Powers as reasoning for asking him to resign. Cigarroa later agreed for Powers to resign in June 2015, after next year's legislative session.

Foster said he thinks McRaven will be "well-received at all levels." Since McRaven's naming as sole finalist, some state legislators have praised the regents' decision, including Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, and state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

"The value of Admiral McRaven's service to our state and nation cannot be overstated," Watson said in a statement. "I'm confident that he will continue to be a strong leader and dedicated public servant."

Cigarroa announced his resignation in February and will remain chancellor through the fall 2014 semester until December. In January 2015, he will return to practicing medicine at UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

This article has been updated throughout since its orginal publication.