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University of Oregon names Michael Schill next president

Michael Schill, dean of the law school at University of Chicago, has been named president of the University of Oregon.
Michael Schill

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - Michael Schill, dean of the law school at University of Chicago, has been named president of the University of Oregon.

The new president takes the helm amid significant transition at the institution that was freed last year from the state university system and is now led by an independent governing board with ambitions for a big endowment and a national profile.

"I think Mike Schill can be a truly transformational leader for the university," said Chuck Lillis, chairman of the Board of Trustees. "This is not a person who's interested in us being average in anything."

Schill will have to contend with diminished state funding for higher education and a need to raise money from private donors. Lillis said Schill's reputation for prodigious fundraising was a big factor in the decision to hire him.

A first-generation college student when he enrolled at Princeton in the 1970s, Schill said he believes public universities are the key to opportunity for young people.

"I won't rest until every family that has a child says to that child, 'You should go to the University of Oregon, because you will get the best possible education,'" Schill told reporters on the Eugene campus.

Before starting at the University of Chicago in 2010, Schill was law dean at the University of California, Los Angeles for five years. He was previously on the law school faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research focused on property and real estate law. He earned a law degree from Yale University in 1984.

Schill's appointment was approved unanimously. He begins July 1, replacing Interim President Scott Coltrane, who took over when Michael Gottfredson resigned abruptly last summer after just two years on the job. Coltrane will return to his previous job as provost.

The University of Oregon has faced turmoil in its senior leadership since longtime President Dave Frohnmayer stepped down in 2009. Richard Lariviere was fired in 2011 after lobbying the Legislature for the university's independence from the State Board of Higher Education, which governed all seven public universities.

After an uproar, his replacement, Gottfredson, persuaded lawmakers to create independent governing boards for the universities. But once the board got the power to fire him, it promptly did so.

In a statement, Democratic Gov. Kate Brown called Schill "a highly qualified and accomplished academic leader of the utmost caliber."

Schill, 56, has a five-year contract and will be paid $660,000 a year, with a $1,200 monthly car allowance and a free home. He'll have a lifetime appointment to the law school faculty, where he'll be entitled to a $450,000 a year job after he leaves the presidency.

Lillis, the board chair, said a search committee narrowed the list of candidates to four finalists, who met with the board in Portland.

UO has faced scrutiny over its handling of a student's allegation that she was sexually assaulted by three basketball players. The players were barred from campus, and prosecutors declined to press charges.

The woman filed a lawsuit earlier this year saying the school knew one of the players had been suspended from another school over sexual misconduct allegations; delayed punishing the players to help the team; and illegally accessed her counseling records.

Schill declined to address the lawsuit but said the university, like others, is grappling with how to handle sexual assault.

"This is a set of issues that I'm anxious to involve myself in," Schill said. "I believe it's very important that this university be a safe place."

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