The University of Idaho Board of Regents voted unanimously to appoint Dean of the College of Law Don Burnett interim president of UI, starting June 1 at a salary of $240,000.
“I’m grateful to the board for offering this service opportunity,” Burnett said during a press conference Wednesday.
The Board of Regents met Wednesday in Moscow to discuss and appoint a replacement for UI President M. Duane Nellis, who has accepted the presidency at Texas Tech University beginning June 15. Idaho State Board of Education Vice President Don Soltman said Burnett’s appointment is the result of the consideration of highly qualified individuals.
“The board is pleased Don has agreed to take on the role of interim president and we have full confidence in his ability,” Soltman said.
Burnett, an Idaho native born in Pocatello, has served as dean of the UI College of Law since 2002. He is also the coordinating dean for UI interdisciplinary programs in water resources, environmental science and professional science masters program. Burnett has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and law degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia. He also served as the dean of the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
Nellis said he is grateful for the opportunity to have served as president of UI and he is committed to continuing his job during the next few months.
“As we transition to Don Burnett as interim president I am excited and know that he will provide excellent leadership as we move forward,” he said.
Soltman said the board considered Burnett’s leadership qualities and the potential for a smooth transition in appointing him interim president.
“Our consideration was we wanted consistent stable leadership here at the University of Idaho and we felt in order to facilitate that transition we needed somebody of Dean Burnett’s stature and leadership ability,” Soltman said.
Burnett said he does not expect to return as the dean of the college of law once his interim presidency is over, but he is not giving up his faculty status in the college. A meeting to discuss appointing an interim dean of the college of law will take place in the next few days. Nellis and UI Provost of Academic Affairs Doug Baker will coordinate the search for a dean.
Burnett is not a candidate to become the next president of UI. Soltman said most national search firms say a better candidate pool is formed if the interim president is not a candidate for the position.
Soltman said Nellis and Burnett are responsible for sorting out the transitional process.
“I want the transition to go as smoothly as possible,” Nellis said. “Dean Burnett and I will be meeting regularly to talk about existing opportunities and challenges for the university.”
Elisa Eiguren can be reached at email@example.com