University of Wisconsin-River Falls

News Source

May 14, 2004


UW System President Katharine Lyall Bids Farewell to UW-RF

University of Wisconsin System President Katharine Lyall visited UW-River Falls on May 11 as she continued a farewell tour of the 26-campus system.

Lyall will retire this summer after 13 years leading the UW System, which has more than 160,000 students and a $3.5 billion annual budget. She joined the UW System in 1982 as vice president for academic affairs and became president in 1991. She is the fifth president of the UW-System and the first woman president since the system was established in 1971.

During her visit to UW-RF, Lyall met with students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and journalists. She presented a special award of recognition to history Professor Ed Peterson to commemorate his 50 years of teaching at UW-RF. She also made special mention of eight UW-RF staff recently named Wisconsin Idea Fellows by the Board of Regents for their leadership, outreach and community service.

In introducing Lyall, Interim UW-RF Chancellor Ginny Coombs noted that more than four million square feet have been added to UW campuses at a cost of $800 million during LyallÕs tenure as president. Half of that physical investment came from non-state funds, grants, contracts and alumni gifts and half was from state revenues. In over a decade, grants and contracts to the System grew from $292 million to $770 million. Moreover, 10 percent of the student body are students of color, matching the ratio of the state's population. One-third of Wisconsin high school students go directly on to UW campuses after graduation.

In brief remarks, Lyall commented on the state of higher education in Wisconsin. Over the past decade, the UW System has added more than 10,000 students while the number of faculty has decreased by 700. Last year, some $250 million was cut from the UW System budget to help balance the state deficit of $3.2 billion, and the system faces another round of budget cuts next year. "These trends canÕt continue," she said.

"We have a challenge, I think, in this state, and that is to match the evolution that we are making from a low-tuition, low-aid state to an average-tuition, low-aid state by evolving a new financial aid policy for Wisconsin," Lyall said. "It is time for us to work with our legislators and our governor to ensure that our students will have the kind of financial access to our system that they need to have if we are going to continue to serve low- and moderate-income students."

About five years ago, students from low- and moderate-income families constituted about 15 percent of UW System students. "ItÕs now down to 11 percent and heading south. We need to worry about that- as a public policy issue, and I hope that we can make some headway on that in the coming year with our elected representatives," she said. "I think families and students have borne their fair share of the costs in recent years and we need to help them out if we are going to continue to be a public-service university with a broad-based access for our students."

At UW-RF, more than 20 percent of its students are from low- and moderate-income families: the highest proportion of any of the UWS campuses. Interim Chancellor Ginny Coombs cited Lyall's contributions to Wisconsin, noting that more than 300,000 graduatesÑor half of all degrees granted since the system was created in 1972Ñbear Lyall's signature.

"UW-River Falls and the state of Wisconsin are both better places today because of President Lyall's leadership," Coombs said. "She will be greatly missed; but she leaves a tremendous legacy behind her."

As a memento, Lyall was presented with a ceramic model of South Hall with the University seal embedded in its base.

Currently Lyall is the chair of the board of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the nationÕs oldest organization supporting teachers and excellence in teaching. She will start her retirement as a one-year visiting scholar at Stanford University.

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