Former Gov. Tommy Thompson announces retirement from University of Wisconsin

Thompson is leaving the UW System as interim president in March.

Updated: January 8, 2022 - 11:13pm

Tommy Thompson is leaving the University of Wisconsin to a round of applause and congratulations.

Thompson on Friday announced that he is leaving the UW System as interim president in March.

"I was honored to be asked by the Board of Regents to serve as System President, particularly through what could have been its darkest time," Thompson said in the letter announcing his retirement. "While challenging on many fronts, we worked together to continue to provide the quality of education our students deserve and parents expect."

Thompson took over the UW System in 2019, and immediately faced a crisis of confidence at the Capitol, then faced the coronavirus pendemic.

Lawmakers in Madison say he negotiated the school through both.

“During his 18 months leading the organization, he faced challenges no president had experienced before. He tackled them head-on and continued to provide quality education, maximizing in-person learning for the students of the UW System. During the last two years, there is no doubt education at the UW campuses would have been nowhere near as meaningful without Tommy Thompson,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester said Friday.

“President Thompson stepped in during a critical moment for UW System and our state, and he has provided strong and decisive leadership,” out-going UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement. “He has been an extraordinary advocate for our students, faculty and staff over these past 18 months, as he has been for the state of Wisconsin over his many decades of public service.”

UW Regent President Edmund Manydeeds also heaped praise on Thompson following his retirement announcement.

“Tommy Thompson was the right man at the right time. His leadership has helped carry us through a pandemic and set the standard for managing during a crisis,"

The UW System has been searching for a new president, and that search may be over. Thompson has said in the past he will only serve as interim president, and his retirement may signal that the school has found a permanent replacement.

Thompson’s last day at the university is set for March 18. The university has not made any announcements about a new president, or a timeline to bring someone on board.

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