President’s Letter to the University Community

Albert Gurdon Gulley Hall. (Ariel Dowski/UConn Photo)
Albert Gurdon Gulley Hall. (Ariel Dowski/UConn Photo)

To the University Community:

Seven years ago, I came to UConn as its 15th president. My charge from our then-new governor, Dannel Malloy, and our board chair at the time, Larry McHugh, was straightforward. They told me to continue to build UConn’s academic strength, ensure we were doing all we could to fuel economic growth in the state, and elevate UConn’s place in American higher education.

With the help of talented colleagues, an extraordinarily dedicated board of trustees, a fabulously talented faculty, a “bleed blue” staff on every campus – as well as the collective efforts of the entire UConn Nation – we have been able to accomplish all three in countless ways.

These have been exciting and rewarding years. UConn has continued to rise in the rankings and grow academically as we embarked on transformational new initiatives, formed vital partnerships, addressed long-standing needs, planned carefully for the future, and made difficult but necessary decisions.

Despite recent financial struggles because of the state budget, together we have become a stronger, better university with a greater global reach. UConn is one of the finest research universities in the United States and the pride of the state of Connecticut, as it should be.

Being able to lead this outstanding institution as its president has been one of the great honors and privileges of my life.

This is a long way of saying that after a lengthy period of reflection, I recently informed Governor Malloy and Chairman Kruger that I have decided to step down as UConn’s president next summer, in 2019, when I will have completed eight years of service at the university.

Speaking as someone who has lived all over the country: Connecticut is a wonderful state and a great place to live. Since I arrived here, by and large, I have found people in Connecticut to be positive, compassionate, enlightened, and progressive in their thinking. They believe deeply in the mission of public higher education.

One of the things I admire most about UConn is the positive energy among the whole community – all of UConn Nation. Whether students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni, donors, patients, or fans who simply came to see a game, the positive spirit I saw throughout my time here defines this place, which means so much to so many people. That is part of what makes it so special, including to me.

Stepping down was not an easy decision by any means. But a university is forever and each of us knows that we are only its temporary caretakers and champions. None of us are indispensable and the right time for a change always arrives eventually. With my employment agreement concluding on July 1 of next year, I felt that would be the right time for me.

But I am looking forward to what comes next: I began my career many years ago as a faculty member at Northwestern University and have always been a scholar-teacher at heart. After I step down, I am excited to return to the classroom as a Professor of Political Science at UConn’s Stamford campus, where I can once again devote my energy to teaching, writing, and contributing to scholarship in my field.

Until then, I look forward to completing my final year as president, ensuring a smooth transition, and continuing to work closely with our many stakeholders and supporters. I will also spend the coming months saying “thank you” to the countless people who I have worked closely with and who have helped UConn continue to succeed.

First among them: we all owe a deep thanks to Governor Malloy, who has been one of the best champions UConn has ever had. Without his support and the support of so many in the General Assembly, UConn would not be where it is today.

My greatest hope going forward is that the state and our many donors will continue to invest in UConn, which is an investment in Connecticut’s future. UConn has come so far since its founding nearly 140 years ago and it has all the right ingredients to go further still. Maintaining a hopeful and positive outlook as a state and believing in the vital mission of public higher education is a key to continued success.

With best wishes and heartfelt gratitude,

Susan Herbst