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Tommy Thompson will end his interim presidency for the University of Wisconsin System on March 18, 2022. Thompson has been serving in an interim role since July 1, 2020, when he replaced Ray Cross, who retired after a 42-year career in higher education, including serving as UW System President from February 2014 to June 2020. 

In a letter to Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III dated Jan. 7, 2022, Thompson chronicled the actions, programs and initiatives that he, along with the rest of the UW System leadership, was able to accomplish both for the university and the entire state.

The COVID-19 pandemic response is one of the most highly regarded initiatives Thompson has spearheaded. The UW System reached its goal for the 70 for 70 Campaign three days before the deadline and awarded 70 vaccinated students each a $7,000 scholarship for participating. The students were chosen in a random lottery of all participating students.

The university system expanded its testing facilities to include state residents and has provided more than 1 million COVID-19 tests.

Along with the successful COVID-19 response, Thompson also noted achievements in financial stability, an enrollment that outperformed other universities during the COVID-19 pandemic, acceleration of the Administrative Transformation Program, “and other necessary reforms to strengthen the backbone” of the UW System.

Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released a statement today regarding Thompson’s announcement.

Tommy Thompson assumed the role of Interim System President with honor and determination. His priorities were to give students a world-class education by upgrading and providing programs to help them succeed now and in the future. During his 18 months leading the organization, he faced challenges no president had experienced before. He tackled them head-on and continued to provide quality education, maximizing in-person learning for the students of the UW System. During the last two years, there is no doubt education at the UW campuses would have been nowhere near as meaningful without Tommy Thompson. Throughout his career, Tommy has been a leader and a mentor, making lasting contributions to our state. I am very grateful to have had him as a mentor when I volunteered on his first campaign for governor. I am proud to call him my friend. I want to thank Tommy Thompson for his tireless efforts to help shape our future workforce and for his decades of public service. While this chapter is ending, I know this won’t be the last contribution he provides for the state of Wisconsin.

Robin J. Vos, Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly

Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III also issued a statement in response to Thompson’s official announcement.

Tommy Thompson was the right man at the right time. His leadership has helped carry us through a pandemic and set the standard for managing during a crisis. As important, President Thompson has been a relentless champion of the University of Wisconsin. It showed in everything he did as System President. He raised the profile of public higher education in our state and ensured that it is relevant, not only to students, parents, faculty, and staff whose leadership we entrusted to him, but also to all Wisconsinites.
He answered the call as one of Wisconsin’s greatest public leaders by accepting this role in spite of the challenges in front of him. We are proud of what he accomplished in his time here and consider him, as always, a lifelong friend of the University of Wisconsin. We were fortunate to have such a strong advocate and evaluator lead the UW System.

Edmund Manydeeds III, University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents President

Applications for presidential candidates were due by October 15, 2021. Applicants were narrowed down in November to semi-finalists, and this month, the remaining finalists will be interviewed. The new UW System President-Designate is scheduled to be announced in February 2022.

About UW System

The University of Wisconsin System has 13 universities spanning 26 campuses throughout the state of Wisconsin that serve approximately 165,000 students. Each year, the UW System awards close to 37,000 degrees, of which, close to 90% of in-state graduates remain in Wisconsin for at least five years. The UW System proudly serves the state by performing groundbreaking research as well as equipping new generations of leaders for business growth, economic gain and intellectual advancements among others.


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