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The University of Michigan Board of Regents bade farewell to two regents and the University’s current vice president for development at the board’s meeting Thursday. Regents Andrew Richner (R) and Andrea Newman (R) were both unseated in the 2018 election, giving up their seats to newcomers Jordan Acker (D) and Paul Brown (D). Vice President for Development Jerry May, a member of the Executive Council that sits at board meetings, is retiring. Thomas Baird, current LSA assistant dean for advancement, will take over his position.
Regent Denise Ilitch (D) read a resolution thanking Richner, the past chair of the board, for his service and naming him a regent emeritus of the University. Regent Ron Weiser (R), Richner’s replacement as chair, later read a similar resolution thanking Newman and naming her a regent emerita.
After Richner’s resolution was read, Richner took to the podium to give a farewell speech that was broadly reflective on his 16 years on the board. He began by thanking members of his family, many of whom were present at the meeting. Richner choked up when talking about his wife, to whom he has been married for 30 years. Richner also credited the University and its officers with preparing his children, both recent graduates, for their careers and lives.
In addition, Richner praised University President Mark Schlissel, saying Schlissel’s selection as president in 2014 was one of the most significant moments of Richner’s tenure.
“I would say that my proudest achievement as a member of the Board of Regents is my participation in the search and hiring of Mark Schlissel as our president,” Richner said. “He has proved to be a truly outstanding president. I look forward, now as an outside observer, to seeing President Schlissel and his outstanding team take the University to new heights.”
Richner concluded his speech on an optimistic note, saying he will continue his active involvement in the University community. He was then commended by a number of his colleagues on the board in speeches, including Schlissel, who thanked him for his leadership style.
“(Richner) has really set a standard for serious, thoughtful, consistent, sober governance of the University,” Schlissel said. “He looks at issues one at a time and without prejudice. He always does what his conscience and values dictate, and I think he sets an outstanding model for public service through working at our University.”
Newman was out of the country and could not attend the meeting, but board members nonetheless praised her for her work and dedication in her 24 years on the board. The resolution naming her a regent emerita gave her credit for cultivating the University’s donor base and focusing the board on affordability and accessibility. With the departure of the two regents, the partisan makeup of the board now stands 7 Democrats to Weiser, the lone Republican member.
The board then turned its attention to May, whose role has been primarily to oversee and direct fundraising efforts for the University during his tenure over the last several decades.
Diggs read a resolution from the regents thanking May for his service. The resolution specifically noted May’s role leading the first billion-dollar campaign for a public university in 1987. It also commended him for extraordinary energy and “tireless” focus.
“I want to thank Vice President May for your steadfast commitment to the development of the University and for your visionary focus on elevating student support, my personal favorite of all your endeavors,” Diggs said.
May broke public university fundraising records with the $5 billion Victors for Michigan campaign this year. He delivered a final report on this fundraising effort at the meeting, and showed fundraising drives have consistently and dramatically increased their yield throughout his tenure.
In a final statement, Richner encouraged the board to take an active role in addressing the evolving challenges that face the University and expressed confidence in the members’ ability.
“I urge you not to be complacent,” Richner said. “We face fierce competition, funding issues, quickly evolving technology, changing demographics and other challenges. I think the University must continually strive to do better. But with this team in place, I’m confident that they will.”