With a unanimous vote Tuesday morning, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees appointed Thomas C. Katsouleas as the university’s 16th president. Katsouleas, currently provost and executive vice president of the University of Virginia, said he was “honored and humbled” to be appointed.
He will take office Aug. 1.
“I wish to thank you for placing your confidence in me. I will spend each and every day working to justify the confidence and meet your expectations in the years ahead,” he said.
Katsouleas was appointed with the endorsement of Gov. Ned Lamont, who said that he looks forward to working with Katsouleas and “ensuring that the university and our state’s economic development team, large corporations, small businesses and start-ups alike are working together to help develop a pipeline of talent and an environment that supports business development and economic growth.” Lamont said
Katsouleas’s reputation is “one of advocacy and relationship-building, a key attribute for the president of our flagship university. I look forward to connecting him with business leaders, our agency commissioners, members of the nonprofit and advocacy community, and others as we work toward a Connecticut that is forward-thinking, strategic and welcoming to new graduates, businesses and entrepreneurs alike.”
Katsouleas was among more than 215 applicants for the position, which President Susan Herbst is leaving this summer when her contract ends after eight years in the job.
Katsouleas, 60, is an inventor and researcher who taught at the University of Southern California for 14 years and served as dean of the engineering school at Duke University for seven years before arriving as provost — the chief academic officer — at the University of Virginia in 2018.
Katsouleas ‘s base pay will be $525,000 with a $50,000 performance-based incentive and $75,000 in annual deferred compensation at the end of each year. In addition, he will have housing at Oak Hill, the president’s house, access to the university’s house on Scarborough Street in Hartford, a car allowance and $125,000 in a deferred payment after five years.
That’s less than the current president, Susan Herbst, who served as president for eight years, is earning. She is eligible to earn a maximum of $899,967 this year, including a possible $40,000 bonus. Her base pay this year is $691,927.
Herbst’s contract ends June 30 but she has agreed to stay on until Aug. 1, when Katsouleas will take office.
Katsouleas plans to spend a significant amount of time in Connecticut in the coming months, the university said, preparing for the job and working with Herbst to ensure a smooth transition.
Katsouleas said Tuesday that he plans to focus strongly on supporting innovation, enhancing the university’s connections with alumni and philanthropic supporters and capitalizing on the state’s investments to aggressively expand UConn’s impact on the economy and and innovation.
He said one of his highest priorities is to grow research at UConn and set a goal of doubling research dollars at the university over the next seven to 10 years. “Good public universities are pillars supporting their state – serving its needs and supporting its economy,” Katsouleas said. “Great flagship universities with their satellite campuses and partners, including state and community colleges, are the crown jewels of the state – uplifting the mind and spirit not just of their own students, but of the surrounding communities and the entire state.”
“That is what we are here to do, and I’m incredibly proud to contribute to that mission.”
Katsouleas emphasized that students are at the center of his mission and said he plans to have regular office hours at a coffee shop, though he wasn’t sure yet which coffee shop. “I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” he said to anyone who might stop by.
Katsouleas’ departure from UVA had been planned since shortly after the president who hired him, Teresa A. Sullivan, announced her intention in 2017 to resign.
He has two physics degrees from UCLA, earning a B.S. in 1979 and a Ph.D in 1984. He began a career in teaching and researching physics, electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Southern California where he became an associate professor professor of electrical engineering in 1991 and full professor in 1997.
In a biography online at UVa, he says, ”My research uses plasmas and lasers to miniaturize particle accelerators, the world’s largest engineered devices, for applications from discovering new forms of matter and energy to beam therapy for tumors and novel imaging tools.”
At UVa, Katsouleas and a counterpart at Virginia Tech organized a coalition of universities and colleges in an effort to promote economic development throughout Virginia. “Sixteen provosts responded positively to our invitation and were joined by leaders from business, government, and community as well as high school outreach organizations,” he and Cyril Clark wrote in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We gathered to explore integrated education, research, and workforce initiatives with the potential to stimulate economic development that we could not launch separately, but could pursue together.”
In January, 2018, Katsouleas was one of three publicly identified finalists for president of the University of Utah, a school with a search process more public than UConn’s.
The university’s search committee worked in confidence and did not identify either of the two finalists interviewed by Lamont the weekend after he took office on Jan. 9. Lamont was initially noncommittal about the candidate but invited Katsouleas back for an unusual vetting session with prominent business leaders on Jan. 28 to talk about the new governor’s desire for UConn to take a stronger role in driving economic growth in Connecticut.
Katsouleas grew up in southern California where he was a surfer, a sailor, and a lifeguard and loved “anything to do with water,” he said in an interview with UVA’s alumni magazine. He has two children who live in California, but Katsouleas said they will be spending their vacations in Connecticut. His oldest child, a high school junior, is looking at colleges, he said, and will include UConn on the list.