Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Witt takes over as chancellor of UA system


The University of Alabama System board of trustees selected UA President Robert Witt to replace Malcolm Portera, who retired in January, as the next chancellor of the UA System yesterday.

The board of trustees and Gov. Robert Bentley, the board’s ex officio president, met with Witt Monday with a single-item agenda – considering Witt for the position of chancellor. After a brief interview and endorsements from the search committee and the governor, the board voted unanimously to accept Witt for the position.

The shift is effective immediately, and Judy Bonner, provost and executive vice president, has been named interim University president until the board, with help from the new chancellor, selects a suitable replacement for Witt.

“It would be hard for us to believe 10 years ago that the University would be where it is now. The reason for this is that Dr. Witt, the board and Chancellor Portera were all on the same page,” said Finis St. John, a member of the University of Alabama board of trustees. “We couldn’t have a better leader to help with the search for a new president at the University of Alabama than Robert Witt.”

Other members of the board agreed with St. John and had nothing but praise for the president turned chancellor.

“Dr. Witt is probably the most effective leader that I have ever dealt with,” said Ronald Gray, another trustee. “I am excited to see him bring his skill set to expand upon the synergy of the three campuses.”

UA System spokeswoman Kellee Reinhardt said no other names were considered for the chancellor position after Witt was approached by members of the board of trustees and indicated he would be interested in replacing Portera.

Witt’s responsibilities as chancellor, Reinhardt said, would include managing the UA system and playing a large role in the selection of the next president, though she also said no process, strategy or timeline for selecting the next president has been decided.

“It’s impossible to set timetables for a search like that,” St. John said. “I think we hope to move as quickly as we can, but we also need to make the right decision.”

Under Witt, who became UA’s president in 2003, enrollment rose from 20,333 to 31,747 in the fall term of this academic year. This and other accomplishments for the growth of the population and prestige of the university earned Witt praise from many sources, including SGA president Stephen Swinson.

“I thank him for the years of service, his vision and I think we can all agree that campus today, it’s changed drastically since I was a freshman and in a positive way,” Swinson said. “What he did at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa was phenomenal, and in just nine short years. I think you will see this at every institution that falls under the University of Alabama system.”

Swinson said the next president needed only to look to Witt’s example of student-focused leadership for success in their endeavors.

“The University wouldn’t be here without the students. So, if you don’t have a president who’s focused on student affairs, his or her agenda will not be successful,” Swinson said. “As long as they are focused and committed to the student body and making our campus experience and our education experience here better than it was when he or she first arrives, they’re going to do well.”

Witt, in 2010, said although he would not always serve in the office of the president, he would remain committed to the University and it’s growth.

“University presidents, probably more than leaders of other types of organizations, are stewards. It’s important to realize that you are there only for a period of time,” Witt said in a March 2010 interview with The Crimson White. “I am always going to be actively involved in the life of this University.”

Witt, in accepting the position of chancellor, stayed true to this commitment of service, and St. John said the message the board has for students is that Witt won’t stop serving any time soon.

“We didn’t lose a president,” St. John said. “We gained a chancellor.”

Staff Reporter Rich Robinson and  Special Projects Editor Tray Smith contributed to this article.







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