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Milwaukee law firm chairman selected to be the next UW System President

Jay O. Rothman will be UW System’s eighth president
Jay Rothman
Posted at 3:33 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 16:38:22-05

MILWAUKEE — The UW Board of Regents has chosen the leader of a Milwaukee law firm to be the next president of the UW System.

Jay O. Rothman got the board's unanimous support during a vote on Friday. He will lead the UW System after former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson announced he was resigning as interim president after leading the system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UW System said in a statement Rothman will step into the new role on June 1 with an annual salary of $550,000. The 62-year-old is the chairman and CEO of the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP in Milwaukee, a firm he has led since 2011.

Jay O. Rothman
Jay O. Rothman

Rothman's ties to Milwaukee stretch back even further, having graduated from Marquette University with a bachelor’s degree. He joined Foley & Lardner in 1986 with a law degree from Harvard Law School, and has been a partner with the firm since 1994.

A Special Regent Committee recommended Rothman to the Board of Regents. The chair of that committee, Regent President Edmund Manydeeds III, has meanwhile asked former regent president Mike Falbo to service as interim president from March 18 until Rothman takes office June 1.

"I intend to lead by listening first, so that the experience I have gained over my lifetime in Wisconsin can help us build a great UW System together," Rothman said the statement. "This is not an original sentiment, but I want to say it because I believe it: the UW System is our state’s crown jewel, and a vibrant UW System builds a strong Wisconsin.”

Tommy Thompson
University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson

Thompson stepped into the role of interim president in July 2020 as the UW System struggled to find a replacement for former President Raymond W. Cross, who retired the year before.

Thompson, a former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, wrote in his resignation letter that when he agreed to take on the role as interim president, he agreed to two things: "that I was needed, and that it would be temporary."

Rothman will be UW System’s eighth president. He received the Special Regent Committee's recommendation after interviews this week with the committee, chancellors, shared governance representatives, and UW System executive leadership, according to their statement.

“The regents appreciate Jay’s willingness to serve the UW System and the people of Wisconsin,” said Regent President Manydeeds III. “I am confident that in partnership with our chancellors, faculty, and staff he will strengthen the UW System for the students and people of Wisconsin we serve.”

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