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U of I expects to name new president before Dec. 1

The University of Illinois said it expects to name a new president by month’s end — and at its regular trustees meeting Thursday awarded retiring President Robert Easter an $180,000 one-time bonus.

The performance-based bonus — twice the $90,000 that the Board of Trustees awarded Easter in September 2013 — will be paid within 30 days so that it falls within the current calendar year, said university spokesman Thomas Hardy.

Meanwhile, a 19-member search committee is nearing its goal of naming a successor to Easter, 65, who will retire when his contract expires July 1, 2015, college officials said. The new president is expected to be tapped before Dec. 1.

The university president oversees three campuses — in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign — and the university’s hospital and health sciences department. The university has 78,000 students, 6,000 faculty members and a $5.6 billion operating budget.

The new president — the university’s 20th — will oversee the hiring of a new chancellor at the Chicago campus, since current Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares’ contract expires in January.

The next president’s salary is expected to be considerably higher than Easter’s base of $478,558 and his total yearly $552,375 compensation because Easter came out of retirement to fill the post, and agreed to take the same salary as previous presidents Stanley Ikenberry and B. Joseph White, university spokesman Tom Hardy has said previously.

On top of his salary, Easter can receive a merit-based pay raise. He got a 3.5 percent merit-based increase in September.

Easter’s bonus payment last year marked the first time the University of Illinois had awarded its president a bonus on top of a base salary.

Board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said the new program serves the best interests of the university and taxpayers, linking compensation to progress toward specific goals that advance the school’s educational, research and public service missions.

“The program sets a tangible measure for performance and provides rewards based on achieving those goals,” Kennedy said when the award was granted.

The performance-based approach has been adopted for top executives in industry and by other public universities, including the University of Texas system and Purdue University.

The Board of Trustees also unanimously approved by voice vote the university’s proposal to host the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. The endorsement is required as part of the university’s response to the presidential library foundation’s request for detailed information from the four finalists vying for the honor, said Mary Case, university librarian, dean of libraries and co-chair of the UIC presidential library steering committee.

The other three finalists are the University of Chicago, Columbia University in New York and the University of Hawaii.

The University of Illinois’ proposal, which will be submitted by Dec. 11 to the presidential library foundation, lists three possible sites — two on campus and a third in the North Lawndale community. The sites are a 6-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Harrison and Halsted; 6 acres that lie to the north and south of Taylor Street on the west side of Ashland, and a 23-acre site in North Lawndale bounded by 5th Avenue on the north, Roosevelt Road on the South, Kostner Avenue on the west and Kildare Street on the east.

Case said the university is touting its status as a public school with a diverse student body, its work to help under-represented communities and its expertise in 3D immersive and visualization technologies as attributes that fit with Obama’s agenda and life’s work.