University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven will step down next year, he announced Friday.
McRaven cited health reasons when he announced his decision at a special telephone meeting of the system's governing board Friday. His short speech — and a press release sent afterward — didn't say when he was leaving other than in 2018. But an e-mail obtained by the Tribune that was sent to an external mailing list, UT System Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations Barry McBee said he'd be stepping down "at the end of May 2018."
"There is going to be a lot of speculation as to why I am stepping down, but the fact is that this is a very personal decision for me," McRaven told the regents, according to a video of the meeting. "As many of you know, over the past several months, I have been dealing with some health issues. They are not serious — let me say that again, they are not serious — but they have caused me to rethink my future."
He presided over the system for about three years, and he has recently come under fire from some regents about growth in the administrative offices of the system. He also angered many legislators last year when he announced plans to build a new UT System research campus in Houston. That Houston plan has since been shelved.
Friday, UTEP President Diana Natalicio released the following statement:
"We are grateful to Chancellor McRaven for his leadership of the University of Texas System over the past three years. We appreciated the energy, fresh perspectives and commitment to quality that he brought to the System and all its operations.
He was a valued advocate for UTEP's strategic development as a public research university, and enhanced our sustained efforts through his support of a variety of initiatives to recruit, retain, and recognize the accomplishments of faculty, staff and students, as well as investments in building UTEP's research infrastructure.
We wish him continued good health and happiness."
McRaven, 62, came to the UT System from the Navy, where he became famous as the architect of the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He has previously disclosed that he suffers from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, but has stressed that it isn't life-threatening.
In a 2015 commencement address at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, he said a doctor gave his wife an optimistic prognosis soon after he was diagnosed: "Something else will kill him long before this does."
Minutes after McRaven announced his resignation, UT System Regent Steve Hicks praised McRaven, who regents have frequently proclaimed a great leader.
"I think he did great service to UT, as he has done all of his career," Hicks told the Tribune.
McRaven didn't say what his plans were after he leaves the system.
"I want to teach," he said. "I want to write. I want to do some traveling. And as hackneyed as it sounds when someone is stepping down, I want to spend time with my family."
But, he added, "I am not leaving for a while, and we still have a lot of work to do."
Key among that work is another point of contention between him and some members of the board. Last month, the Board of Regents voted 4-3 to spend $4.5 million on a bid to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. McRaven championed the idea, saying it was a way to increase research expenditures at the system and contribute to the country. Leaders of the flagship University of Texas at Austin are opposed to the idea, however. And the regents who voted against it said it was a risky, potentially expensive proposition.
"I remain completely and fully committed to securing the bid for the Los Alamos National Laboratory," McRaven said. "I think the initiative is one of the most important in the history of the UT System. We have put together a world-class team to run the lab."
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