Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, will announce his resignation on Monday, well-placed sources have told the American-Statesman.
The 56-year-old surgeon is expected to become head of the pediatric transplant team at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, but perhaps not until a successor is in place to serve as chief executive of the 15-campus UT System, according to the sources.
The unexpected development reflects Cigarroa’s passion for surgery — he has performed liver and kidney transplants every three or four weeks since becoming chancellor five years ago — but is also a sign that he has grown weary of dealing with a deeply divided Board of Regents.
The continual flash point for the past three years has been UT-Austin and its president, Bill Powers. Matters came to something of a climax in recent months, with a minority of the nine-member board privately pressing Cigarroa to recommend the dismissal of Powers. Under the board’s policy, regents generally do not fire a campus president without a recommendation to do so by the chancellor.
Cigarroa instead delivered a public dressing-down of Powers in December, with instructions to improve trust, respect and communication in dealings with regents and other system officials. The chancellor said that, despite strain between him and Powers on some matters, he wanted to keep Powers as president of the flagship campus in part because of the strong support he enjoys among students, faculty members, alumni and donors.
That seemed to mean Powers was safe, but tensions for Cigarroa have continued to run high, in part because Regent Wallace Hall Jr. is under investigation by a legislative committee for his activities, including demands for massive amounts of records from the Austin campus.
Hall’s critics say he has been on a witch hunt to oust Powers, while supporters say the regent has raised questions about legislative influence in admissions at Austin, handling of public-information requests and other matters. The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations has held several hearings concerning Hall and could recommend his impeachment or some other censure.
Characteristically low-key and polite, Cigarroa has nonetheless shown occasional flashes of irritation at his fractious board. In May 2011, he sought and received a unanimous vote of support from the regents after insisting that they refrain from micromanaging the system’s academic and health campuses.
Despite the distractions, Cigarroa has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments as chancellor, notably by helping to set the system on a path to establish medical schools in Austin and the Lower Rio Grande Valley.