UW System names two finalists in search for permanent president

By: - January 14, 2022 1:35 pm
University of Wisconsin symbol on building

University of Wisconsin Madison by sk CC BY-ND 2.0

The chairman and CEO of a prominent law firm based in Milwaukee and the Chancellor of UW-Eau Claire were named as finalists in the search for a permanent UW System president on Friday. 

The university system has been without a permanent president for nearly two years after the initial, widely criticized search failed because enough wasn’t done to include the voices of campus community members including faculty, staff and students. 

On Friday, the search committee announced that Jay Rothman, chairman of the Milwaukee-based law firm Foley and Lardner, and James Schmidt, chancellor at UW-Eau Claire since 2013, were the finalists in the second search. 

“We have identified two excellent candidates, each of whom would be an outstanding leader for our university system,” UW System Board of Regents President Edmund Manydeeds III said in a statement. “We believe their qualifications and experience provide the committee a great opportunity to pick a future leader for the UW System.

The first search only named one candidate, University of Alaska System President Jim Johnsen, who withdrew from consideration after criticism of the search process. 

Since the failed search, former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson has served as interim president. Thompson is set to resign from the role on March 18. 

Rothman has not worked in higher education before and has served on the board of Children’s Wisconsin. Schmidt has worked in higher education his whole career, including at a number of schools in Minnesota. 

On Tuesday, both finalists will be interviewed by the search committee and other groups that include campus community members. Following the interviews, the committee will make a recommendation to the full Board of Regents for a vote. A decision is expected by the end of January, according to a news release.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.