UH Board of Regents chooses Lassner as new president

David Lassner (Photo: University of Hawaii)

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents has selected the university’s new system-wide president.

In a 11-2 vote with two abstentions, David Lassner was chosen at a special board meeting Monday at the UH Information Techology Center.

Lassner is already familiar with the job, having served as the university’s interim president since July. The appointment is effective July 1.

Francis Wiercinski, a retired lieutenant general with the U.S. Army, was also under consideration.

The board discussed its thoughts on the 11-month search process for the next president, which involved extensive community outreach and feedback from the public on what it wants to see in the next university leader.

Board Chair John Holzman said, “We had two extremely competent and qualified finalists and, given another time and set of circumstances, Frank Wiercinski might indeed have been the overwhelming choice. But for where the university is now, and the road we have ahead to rebuild public trust, accountability and transparency, David Lassner is the leader we need.”

“I am humbled and honored by the trust being placed in me by the Board of Regents,” Lassner said in a statement. “I pledge to listen, learn and collaborate to achieve excellence at UH as we execute on our shared vision to serve all the people of Hawaii in a manner that exemplifies superb stewardship of public resources.”

The two abstentions came from board members who wanted to start the selection process again, but Holzman said the search process had gone on long enough and it was time to move forward.

“What kind of credibility would this university have to have gone so far and then say, ‘Oops! We changed our mind,'” he said.

Regents worked out the terms of appointment in executive session after the public discussion and vote. They include a $375,000 annual salary and a continuous term with annual review. A sub-committee of the Board will negotiate terms of the appointment, will be focused around goals the board wants him to accomplish and annual evaluations based on those goals, and a delegation to Chair of Board will execute agreed-upon terms.

It will not include items such as a housing allowance or any special post – presidential “tenure appointment” in his discipline as has been included in previous presidential contracts.

In its final report to the board, the Committee on Presidential Selection said Lassner was chosen as a finalist due to his working relationship with the state legislature and governor, his commitment to strengthening the school’s pursuits in both education and research, and a willingness to close programs that are no longer justified.

“(Lassner) explained that he tried to lead by example, to be collaborative, to not neglect ‘the small stuff’ that could be fixed immediately, to be relentless at times in pursuing goals, and always to be positive,” the report said.

The following is a statement from Wiercinski:

I would like to thank the Board of Regents for the honor and privilege of being a finalist for the critical position of University of Hawaii President. I also want to thank all the Chancellors and their teams, Vice Presidents, Faculty Senate Chairs, Student Caucus leadership, UHPA and HGEA leadership, UH Foundation, Alumni Association, and the BOR’s staff. I will always recall their passion and dedication, and their dignity and respect during our conversations.

I would like to particularly thank those who nominated me for this position, asked me to serve, and further acknowledge their support and confidence in my leadership abilities. I am in awe of their courage and efforts to move the University forward, and so very grateful for their unyielding support.

Jeannine and I wish to congratulate David Lassner as he assumes the permanent President’s position. We wish him and the University of Hawaii great success and Aloha.

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