Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Thomas Katsouleas will be the next University of Connecticut president (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

STORRS, CT — Incoming University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas is a well-known scholar and inventor, and as the school’s 16th president he faces some immediate challenges.

UConn’s Board of Trustees voted Tuesday morning in favor of naming Katsouleas the school’s next president.

Among those challenges are reductions in state funding, a decline in the university’s U.S. News & World Report ranking, and an Athletics Division that was subsidized to the tune of more than $40 million in 2018 — the highest subsidy in college athletics that year according to USA Today. Katsouleas said he’s ready take on those issues and has set some ambitious goals for the state’s flagship university.

Katsouleas, executive vice president and provost at the University of Virginia, was chosen from a pool of 215 candidates following a six-month national search. He won’t start his new job until August, but once he does he wants to double UConn’s research dollars over the next 10 years.

“You hope to invest a dollar for every dollar per year that research grows in perpetuity,” Katsouleas said.

It’s a “worthwhile investment, but it isn’t cheap,” he added.

He said it takes a culture, rhetoric, and resources, and that he’s determined to find the funding to invest in UConn’s current faculty and to recruit new faculty members who will attract more research funds.

Athletic Director David Benedict and the coaches from UConn’s major sports programs were in attendance Tuesday for the announcement. The division’s finances have been the subject of some scrutiny recently.

In 2018, UConn athletics brought in about $40 million in revenue, but ended up spending about $81 million. The department generally runs a deficit, but it has grown over the last few years to $41 million in 2018. Student fees and institutional support are used to cover those costs.

Katsouleas said Benedict has a plan for how to improve those numbers.

“We agree the plan for that is revenue generation and expense reduction,” Katsouleas said. “I think David has a good plan for that.”

He joked that “winning really helps with the revenue side.”

Gov. Ned Lamont was on hand for the announcement and said he had invited Katsouleas to meet with some of Connecticut’s most prominent business and academic leaders a few weeks ago, and several of those executives and academics were in the room Tuesday.

Lamont said it was a reminder of the key role that UConn plays in the economic engine of Connecticut.

“I wanted our business leaders to be vested in our next university president,” Lamont said.

Katsouleas, who spent seven years at Duke University as the dean of the Pratt School of Engineering and also worked at the University of Southern California, said he knows that universities play an important role within a state’s economy.

“Good public universities are pillars supporting their state — serving its needs and supporting its economy,” he said. “Great flagship universities, with their satellite campuses and partners, including state and community colleges, are the crown jewels of the state — uplifting the mind and spirit not just of their own students, but of the surrounding communities and the entire state.”

Katsouleas signed a five-year contract and his term won’t start until August. He succeeds President Susan Herbst, who will take a faculty position at UConn’s Stamford campus.

Katsouleas’ base compensation will be $525,000 with a three percent annual increase and a cap of $675,000 on annual compensation. That includes a car allowance and housing arrangements. His annual performance bonus will be $50,000 and his deferred compensation credit at the end of each year will be $75,000, according to details released by the university.

Lamont didn’t make any promises about how much he planned to give the university as part of the budget he will unveil on Feb. 20, but he said education remained his “number one priority as governor.”

The university receives about $343 million from the state. About $191 million goes to Storrs and the regional campuses, and the rest is for the Health Center in Farmington.