University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton today announced that he will be leaving the UA to accept the position of executive director of the Fiesta Bowl. Shelton will move to the leadership role of the Phoenix-based charity effective Aug. 1.
"This was probably the most difficult decision I've ever had to make," Shelton said. "I have spent my entire career in higher education, and I care passionately about the UA. But there always comes a point in life where you feel that it is time to try something new."
"After a lot of conversation with my wife, Adrian, we felt that this was the right time for us to take on an exciting new challenge, and a good time to bring a fresh perspective to the leadership of the University," he said. "I leave the UA very proud of what we've accomplished over these past five years and confident that the culture of integrity and commitment to quality that inspires our faculty, staff, appointed professionals and students will carry the University forward in great ways."
Despite state budget cuts of more than 40 percent over the past three years, Shelton has guided the UA to achievement of sound financial management coupled with extraordinary academic success. The UA's bond rating is the strongest of all universities in the ABOR system. The University has set records for enrollment each year under Shelton's tenure, and each incoming class has been stronger academically and more diverse than the previous year's.
Shelton created the Arizona Assurance program as a signature initiative to demonstrate the affordability of a UA degree to all academically qualified Arizonans.
Shelton also expressed pride in other major initiatives that he shepherded: "We have established a nationally recognized program to support returning veterans in their entry to university life and to the successful completion of their college degrees. We successfully launched a new medical school campus in Phoenix, where we just celebrated the first graduating class. Our research portfolio has risen dramatically, and fundraising has set records."
The Fiesta Bowl is a highly visible and important economic enterprise for the state. Widely recognized for bringing thousands of people to Arizona for two prominent football bowl games, the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl, the organization is also one of Arizona's most successful charitable enterprises, supporting dozens of local organizations and sponsoring numerous events throughout the year.
"We are so fortunate that someone of Dr. Shelton's caliber has chosen to lead our organization," said Duane Woods, Fiesta Bowl Chairman of the Board. "While we had an amazing number of talented applicants for this position, Dr. Shelton's impeccable record of integrity and his vast knowledge of collegiate academics and athletics are perfectly suited to restore trust and credibility with our volunteers, staff, community and key partners. "
"His experience at the highest level of the BCS, coupled with his love for the state of Arizona, makes him the ideal leader as we move forward," Woods said. "The Bowl has come through some difficult times, but with Dr. Shelton at the helm we believe our future is bright."
Commenting on his appointment, Shelton said: "I have been enormously impressed with the commitment of the Fiesta Bowl board, and believe that I am joining the organization at a time when we can make big strides in expanding the impact of their important work."
In an email message sent to the campus community just prior to the public announcement of his appointment, Shelton said that his top priority as president has been to "preserve and grow the quality of what we do at UA, because it is the quality of our effort that sets this institution apart."
In his campus memo, Shelton went on to say: "I leave UA proud of what it stands for and what it means to Arizona's future. The OSIRIS-REx grant, announced just two weeks ago, symbolizes the prominence of UA in the sciences. We received it because of the quality of our scholars and the institutional commitment that has been made to support great science. It is why we are number one in the country in lunar and planetary research, and why we are currently ranked by NSF as second in the nation in the physical sciences, behind only Cal Tech."
"But it is not just the sciences that set us apart. Our programs in the arts have continued to generate the artists of the future, whose performances enrich the quality of life for Arizonans. Our scholars embrace the land-grant mission of serving the people of Arizona. University of Arizona faculty, whether in the physical, biological, social or behavioral sciences, working across disciplines with humanists, health sciences professionals, business and finance and legal scholars, architects and engineers, have all been intensively engaged in projects addressing the issues that matter to the citizens of our state."
Shelton concluded by saying: "We talk about being a Wildcat for Life, and that is truly how I feel. Adrian and I will forever hold this University dear in our hearts, and we will forever be indebted to all who made our time here so special."
Details about the transition will be forthcoming in the next few days, as the Arizona Board of Regents releases plans for the search for Shelton's successor, and leadership of the University until the formal search is completed.