University of Texas System regents made it official Monday: James B. Milliken, a veteran of higher education administration, will be the next chancellor of the 14-campus system.
The regents’ unanimous vote during a specially called telephone meeting was little more than a formality, given that they had named Milliken the sole finalist for the job Aug. 4. Under state law, the regents had to wait at least 21 days before taking a final vote. He becomes chancellor-designate without pay effective immediately, allowing him to begin learning his way around the system before his appointment takes effect Sept. 17.
Milliken, 61, served from 2014 until the end of May as chancellor of the City University of New York, which has seven community colleges, 11 four-year schools and six graduate, honors and professional schools. He previously was president of the four-campus University of Nebraska and before that was senior vice president of the University of North Carolina System.
“Chancellor-designate Milliken has worked in practically every facet of higher education administration for large, dynamic university systems in three states,” regents Chairwoman Sara Martinez Tucker said. “In each case, our regents were impressed with his ability to develop a strategic vision, garner support for it, and then implement it with positive, measurable results. The regents were also particularly interested in his innovations in the areas of student success and access.”
Milliken told news reporters after the regents’ vote that he was grateful for the chance to lead the UT System, in part because of the regents’ deep commitment to higher education and the state’s can-do character.
“I would not have been attracted to very many opportunities at this point in my career,” he said.
Milliken said he would advocate for legislative funding for campuses, support their research aspirations, promote the importance of good teaching and encourage campuses to improve graduation rates. The regents are working on recommendations to streamline the system’s administrative offices in Austin, and Milliken said he would do all he can to help make that enterprise as cost-effective and efficient as possible.
“A key part of the job is to establish strong relations with the political leadership of the state,” Milliken said, adding that he has already had a “terrific” meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott. He said he would be reaching out to legislative leaders soon.
Larry Faulkner, a former UT-Austin president, has been serving as interim UT System chancellor since Bill McRaven stepped down at the end of May. McRaven, a retired admiral, cited health problems as well as a desire to teach, write and pursue other interests.
Milliken has dealt with health problems as well, notably throat cancer for which he received months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He told the American-Statesman that his doctors pronounced him cured and put that in writing, a document he shared with the regents.
A native of Nebraska, Milliken earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska and a law degree at New York University.