The University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to extend President Tim Killeen’s contract by four years, through June 30, 2024.
The four-year extension includes a 19 percent increase in Killeen’s annual compensation and reflects the board’s trust in Killeen’s leadership, which has brought record enrollment, the longest in-state tuition freeze in five decades, and pioneering new workforce and economic development initiatives, Chairman Donald Edwards said.
“The best universities have consistent leadership that is aligned with the board’s goals,” Edwards said. “President Killeen is lifting an already world-class university system ever closer to the ambitious goals the board has set to expand our impact on students and our state. We are grateful for his vision, passion and leadership, and look forward to meeting our rising standards of ‘excellence in scale’ that distinguishes the University of Illinois System.”
Killeen said he is honored by the board’s confidence, and thanked trustees for the opportunity to continue the momentum that has been building across the U of I System and its universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield.
“This is truly one of the world’s most respected and accomplished university systems, with the talent and commitment to expand its power to transform students’ lives and drive progress for our state and nation,” said Killeen, who took office as the U of I System’s 20th president in 2015 under a five-year contract that expires this summer.
Under the extension, which takes effect July 1, Killeen’s annual compensation will increase for the first time since he took office. He will be paid $835,000 in cash compensation annually, up 19 percent from the $700,000 he received each year under the original contract. That agreement included $600,000 in base salary and $100,000 that he received each year through an incentive-based, pay-for-performance program based on his progress toward goals set by the board. Under the new contract, that incentive pay will become part of his base salary rather than being paid separately.
With the increase, Killeen’s annual base pay will rank fifth among the 11 Big Ten presidents with multi-campus oversight. Killeen has had no increase in compensation in his first five years as president.
Under the extension, Killeen will be eligible for annual increases when salary programs are authorized for U of I System employees.
The extension also includes $100,000 per year in deferred compensation that will pay a total of $400,000 if Killeen serves as president through the end of the new contract. No deferred compensation will be paid if Killeen leaves the presidency voluntarily or is terminated before the end of the agreement.
Since taking office, Killeen has helped lead a surge of growth across the state’s flagship university system.
Enrollment is at record highs, topping 89,000 students last fall system-wide, and is up nearly 14 percent since Killeen took office in 2015. Growth includes increases among both in-state and underrepresented students, and has been driven by a commitment to academic excellence, student success and affordability.
A three-year initiative is currently underway that aims to add up to 45 renowned professors to the system’s already world-class faculty ranks, and a first-ever long-range hiring plan seeks to add nearly 500 new tenure-track faculty over the next five years to keep pace with enrollment growth. A $4 billion construction program will build or upgrade nearly 350 facilities over the next decade to ensure classroom and research space matches the system’s academic excellence. Student retention and graduation rates top national norms, while student debt rates are lower than national averages.
Student costs were held in check by a five-year tuition freeze for Illinois students – unprecedented in more than a half-century – along with ongoing increases that have more than doubled institutional financial aid to about $230 million annually over the last decade. New programs also have been launched, such as Urbana-Champaign’s “Illinois Commitment,” which makes four years of college free for Illinois students with family income below the state’s $61,000 median average.
Killeen, a leading researcher in geophysics and space sciences, has also championed efforts to expand the research discovery that drives progress and job creation. System-wide research funding has increased 4.5 percent to more than $1 billion over his nearly five years as president. He also helped lead creation of two pioneering new initiatives to drive innovation and workforce development – the Discovery Partners Institute, a world-class research center in downtown Chicago, and the Illinois Innovation Network, a system of satellite research hubs that will help spread its impact across the state.
He also reaffirmed the system’s commitment to the arts and humanities, launching a program that pumped nearly $2 million into faculty initiatives that underscore their importance to a well-rounded education and to the public good.
During Killeen’s tenure, fundraising also has reached record highs through a series of campus-based campaigns publically launched in late 2017 that seek to raise a combined $3.1 billion, the most ambitious fundraiser in the U of I System’s history. With about three years left, the three university campaigns have raised over $2.4 billion, 78.5 percent of the goal.
The successes have helped the system’s three universities rise in rankings of the nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report and other agencies, and are rooted in a Strategic Framework that Killeen helped develop in the first months of his presidency to guide the U of I System for the next decade. The roadmap sets high-aspiration goals to make the U of I System a model for higher education in the 21st century, and build on its more than 150-year legacy of service to students, innovation and the public good.
When he joined the U of I System, Killeen brought more than three decades of experience as an educator, researcher and administrator in public higher education and in leadership positions with national scientific research agencies. Most recently, he served as vice chancellor for research and president of the Research Foundation at the State University of New York (SUNY), one of the nation’s largest higher education systems. In his dual role, he was at the center of SUNY’s strategy for research growth.
Earlier, he served as assistant director for the geosciences at the National Science Foundation, as the Lyall Research Professor at the University of Colorado, and as director and senior scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He spent more than 20 years as a faculty member and researcher at the University of Michigan, where he also served as associate vice president for research.
He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2007, and is a member and past president of the American Geophysical Union and a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has authored more than 150 publications in peer-reviewed journals, along with more than 300 other publications and papers.
A native of Wales and a U.S. citizen, Killeen received his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy at University College London, where he also earned his Ph.D. in atomic and molecular physics and was later awarded an honorary doctorate degree.