Timothy L. Killeen said he was keeping a close eye on the fourth agenda item at the Jan. 15 U. of I. Board of Trustees meeting: his appointment as the 20th president of the University of Illinois.
"I was a little fixated on No. 4, but the other (agenda items) were important, too," he said with a laugh, after trustees unanimously approved his appointment.
"I can now use the word 'we' in reference of Illinois, and we can do a lot together. We have the chance to reinvent public higher education. I'm very excited to be joining you - to be on your team."
Killeen has been working closely with outgoing U. of I. President Bob Easter, who retires June 30, since Killeen's appointment was announced in November.
"We're off to a good start," Easter said.
Killeen, 62, was president of the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, a separate but affiliated foundation that oversees about $900 million in annual funding across SUNY's 29 state-supported research campuses. He continues as SUNY's vice chancellor for research during the transition.
"I will listen, I will communicate, I will engage, I will try to create a shared vision for the University of Illinois, and we'll get it done together," Killeen said when he was introduced at UIC Nov. 19.
Killeen's five-year contract, $600,000 per year plus an annual performance bonus of up to $100,000, makes his compensation seventh among peer institutions.
After an eight-month search that winnowed 200 candidates down to three finalists, Killeen was the board's unanimous choice.
Killeen spent more than 20 years on the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he began as a postdoctoral scholar and left as associate vice president for research and professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences.
He joined SUNY in 2012 after four years as assistant director of geosciences for the National Science Foundation and eight years as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the world's premier atmospheric research centers.