University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr. announced to the Board of Regents his plans to retire at the end of his current contract year, June 30, 2011. Davis has served as chancellor of the system’s 35 colleges and universities since Feb. 2006.
In his announcement, Davis noted that he had made a number of commitments when the Board of Regents appointed him in Dec. 2005 as the System’s 11th chancellor. He promised the board a five-year commitment to the job, which will be fulfilled in Feb. 2011 and he promised Gov. Sonny Perdue that he would continue as chancellor until the conclusion of Perdue’s term in Jan. 2011.
“The advent of a new governor does mean that the University System chancellor needs to establish a long-term working relationship in order to be effective. It is therefore appropriate that I step down at the end of my contract year and allow my successor to establish this necessary relationship,” Davis said. “The opportunity to lead this great system of public higher education has been a tremendous experience with both challenges and rewards. The System has certainly made great progress in its stated goal of educating more Georgians to higher levels than in the past.”
Board Chair Willis Potts, in response to Davis’ announcement, said, “Chancellor Davis has been and is an impressive individual who has brought to the University System an extremely high level of experience and ethical leadership. The regents, the presidents, the state and, above all, our students, have benefited from his outstanding stewardship.”
During Davis’ tenure the system has seen a jump in enrollment from 259,945 students in fall 2006 to a preliminary 310,361 students in fall 2010, an increase of 50,416 students, or 19.4 percent. The USG’s annual economic impact on Georgia has grown from $10.4 billion in FY06 to $12.7 billion in FY09 and the amount of dollars generated from research, grants and contracts has increased $75.5 million, from $831 million in FY06 to $906.5 million in FY08.
The University System also has undergone significant budget challenges during this period of enrollment growth, as the economic recession took a toll on state revenues. When Davis began, the USG had a total FY06 budget of $5 billion, including state appropriations of $1.8 billion. The FY11 budget totals $6.7 billion with $1.92 billion in state appropriations, which includes reductions in state funding in FY09, FY10 and FY11 of $630 million.
Despite the budget challenges, under Davis’ leadership, the system made a number of major changes in both its academic and operational structures that have followed the blueprint of the board-approved Strategic Plan adopted in 2007.
The system’s core curriculum was completely revised in 2009, which includes the gradual elimination of the Regents’ Test. In 2008 the board supported a major expansion of physician education through Georgia’s Health Sciences University in Athens, Savannah and Albany. A focus on increasing the numbers of other health professions graduates also has intensified under Davis’ watch.
Students have seen improvements in the area of student advising and planning, with the rollout this year of two-year course calendars.
Efforts to increase the numbers of students enrolling in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) were ramped up and the USG was cited for its achievements in increasing the numbers of K-12, particularly minority, teachers it produces.
Operationally, Davis has stressed the need to establish a risk management process throughout the USG and in 2008 the board approved a system-wide ethics policy for all USG employees. In addition, Davis established a system-level human resources function that has addressed rising health benefit costs and established an Executive Leadership Institute to identify and train emerging leaders within the System.
Issues such as philanthropic giving, campus safety and emergency planning and response and energy conservation have all been addressed through special presidential task forces created under Davis’ leadership.
The regents also approved a complete overhaul of the process by which key facilities needs are identified and prioritized for annual budget requests, which went into effect in FY08 and has attracted $1.067 billion in funding for facilities over the past four fiscal years. The board also approved a Shared Services Initiative that to date has consolidated payroll and financial systems.
Prior to being named chancellor, Davis served as chairman of the board of Alliant Energy Corporation from 2000-2005, after joining the company in 1998 as president and chief executive officer. Prior to the creation of Alliant Energy, Davis served as president and CEO of WPL Holdings, from 1990 to 1998. From 1978-1990, Davis rose through the senior management ranks at Wisconsin Power and Light Company, starting as vice president of finance and ending as CEO and president. His career also includes corporate finance positions at Xerox Corporation and Ford Motor Company.
Plans to select the next USG chancellor will be announced at a future date.