Michigan officially elects Bollinger

by Jake Elberg | 11/13/96 6:00am

College Provost Lee Bollinger was officially elected yesterday as president of the University of Michigan. After a short meeting, Michigan's Board of Regents unanimously confirmed Bollinger's selection and approved his contract.

At a press conference following the meeting, Bollinger said he plans to start at Michigan in February.

The eight Regents, acting as the presidential search committee, voted last Tuesday to select Bollinger. They met again yesterday as the Board of Regents and officially offered him a contract, completing a year-long presidential search process.

"We finalized as the Board of Regents what we had done as the presidential search committee," Regent Rebecca McGowan said. "We selected him last week and this week we formally elected him."

Bollinger's initial contract appoints him to a five-year term. He will receive a first-year salary of $275,000 and will "receive all benefits traditionally associated with the Presidency of the University of Michigan," according to the contract.

As part of the contract, which McGowan said "contains no surprises," Bollinger will live in the presidential residence and will receive an automobile provided by the university.

Kim Clarke, assistant to the vice president of university relations, said although all Michigan presidents are given the presidential residence, most decide not to live in the house.

"Bollinger indicated he and his wife intend to live in the president's house," Clarke said. "Most presidents choose not to live there because it is sort of a fishbowl. It's not very private."

At a press conference following the meeting, Bollinger sat at the board table with his wife as the Regents spoke about his selection.

"The Regents basically said they were thrilled Bollinger is here and they looked forward to working with him," Clarke said. "They said they wanted to welcome him home."

Clarke said Bollinger received a standing ovation from the approximately 50 people at the meeting. Bollinger then gave a speech in which he formally accepted the position.

"There are special moments in life when we feel we see more clearly and more deeply into the truth of things," Bollinger said. "I feel this is such a moment for me, and I hope it is for the university."

Clarke said Bollinger appeared "relaxed and happy" as he delivered his speech which he had written on notebook paper before the press conference.

"I am grateful to [the Regents] and the university for giving me this opportunity to serve the University of Michigan," he said.

Bollinger then answered questions about his plans for the university and when he intends to begin the job.

"He wouldn't be specific, but said he planned to start sometime around February," Clarke said. "He said he needs to talk more with our interim president as well as with Dartmouth's president before he will know for sure."

Clarke said Bollinger indicated he will teach a class similar to Government 68, "Freedom of Speech and Press," which he is teaching this term.

"He said he will teach a class on the first amendment and free speech and may also try to teach a seminar," Clarke said.

Clarke said Bollinger was asked about his priorities but did not want to talk much about his ideas or goals for the university.

"He said he did not want to get into that," Clarke said. "He said he wanted to let the interim president do his job without interfering by publicizing his plans."

"He did say, however, that he wants to reestablish the prominence of deans on campus," she said.

McGowan said the reception, which followed the press conference, was "a very joyous celebration."

"I can't overemphasize how happy people at this university and in this town are to have Jean and Lee back in Ann Arbor," McGowan said. "It was really quite moving."

Clarke said at least 250 people, many of whom were students, attended the public reception.

"He spent a lot of time shaking hands and talking to people," Clarke said. "There was a cluster of photographers following him everywhere he went."

McGowan said yesterday's excitement was a reflection of the attitude of the Michigan community.

"There is enormous excitement here about his return," she said. "Everyone is filled with confidence about his presidency."

The Regents selected Bollinger last Tuesday after the Presidential Search Advisory Committee narrowed down their original list of about 300 candidates to four finalists.

Once the four finalists were chosen, each traveled to Ann Arbor for interviews with the Regents and the public at a town meeting and to attend a number of social events.

Less than a week after the last finalist visited the Michigan campus, the search committee met to choose the new president. It took them fewer than three hours to make Bollinger the unanimous choice.

Bollinger instantly accepted the position after receiving a phone call from Regents Nellie Varner and Shirley McFee informing him of the decision.

Bollinger could not be reached for comment.

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