CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — University of Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman resigned Tuesday following months of pressure over special attention the school paid to politically connected applicants at its Urbana-Champaign campus and news that some were admitted over more qualified students.
In a resignation letter to the board of trustees that oversees the university's three campuses, Herman called his time at the school an honor.
"Ours is a great institution with its brilliant and hardworking faculty and staff, and its smart and ambitious students, and I plan to continue to contribute to ensuring the bright future of the University of Illinois," Herman wrote. "Thank you for the honor to serve the University. I have enjoyed every minute, in fact, every nanosecond."
His resignation from the $400,000-a-year chancellor's job is effective Monday. The 68-year-old Herman will remain with the central Illinois school as a tenured math professor, the university said, earning $244,000 a year.
The Faculty Senate last month called for Herman, who is in charge of the Urbana-Champaign campus, and university President B. Joseph White – chief executive of all three Illinois campuses – to step down amid the admissions scandal. White plans to leave his post in December.
Board chairman Christopher Kennedy said Tuesday that Herman's replacement will have to have a strong focus on attracting good faculty and on science and research.
"Richard had a sense of that, which was evident in areas where he put a lot of focus, like the (Institute for Genomic Biology)," Kennedy said, referring to the on-campus research center that opened in 2003.
"The more you talk about Richard, the more impressive he is," Kennedy said. "It'll be a challenge to find somebody."
The board's executive committee will meet Friday to act on Herman's resignation and new employment contract.
In e-mails released by the university and in news reports since May, it became clear that Herman played a key role in what the university called its Category I list – students with political connections whose applications for places at the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus were closely tracked. Some of those applicants were admitted over more qualified ones.
In some e-mails, Herman pushed for the admission of underqualified applicants to the university's law school and agreed to provide scholarship money in exchange.
He has apologized for his role in the scandal, which also led to the resignation of seven members of the board of trustees. Herman has said he didn't believe he had the power to end a system of influence that predated him and was ingrained in the state's political culture.
"God knows I erred and I have been marred and bloodied," Herman told the Faculty Senate before their vote last month. "I make a humble request: Give me the opportunity to return to the arena – our arena – in pursuit of our worthy cause."
Gov. Pat Quinn, who created a commission to examine the admissions troubles at the university, said Tuesday it was best that Herman resigned.
Herman came to the university as provost in 1998 and was named interim chancellor in 2004 before being given the job permanently in 2005. He previously was dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Maryland.
According to the university, he will forgo a $300,000 retention bonus that he would have received next year.
Herman's duties will be split for up to a year between Stanley Ikenberry, who will become interim president when White leaves, and interim Provost Robert Easter, Ikenberry said. A permanent successor will be selected by the new president, who is expected to be named by next fall.
Ikenberry, a former Illinois president who worked on campus after his resignation, doesn't believe having Herman and White – who also plans to stay on with the university – on campus after they resigned under pressure will be a problem.
"I can tell you from personal experience that you accumulate anonymity pretty quickly," he said.
Associated Press Writer Deanna Bellandi in Chicago contributed to this report.