May 4, 2015

Dear colleagues:

As I look ahead to retirement on May 17 after more than four decades with the University of Illinois, I’m reminded of a quote by A.A. Milne, best known for his Winnie the Pooh book series:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

I could never have imagined the experiences ahead when Cheryl and I rolled our U Haul into Champaign-Urbana to begin my graduate studies back in 1973. This great University has been our home ever since, and I still marvel that I was given the opportunity to see it from nearly every angle – as a student, alumnus, donor, faculty member, department head, dean, interim provost and chancellor and, for the last three years, as president.

Over those years, the University’s growth has been remarkable – in enrollment, in facilities, in service to our students and our state, in research discovery, and in global prestige. It has risen to a place among the world’s best thanks to all of you – our students and alumni, faculty and staff, administrators and trustees, donors and friends – and it is our relationships with all of you that Cheryl and I will cherish most.

The University is currently at a crossroads. Government funding declines, online education and growing global competition have combined to threaten access, affordability and the excellence that is synonymous with the University of Illinois. 

But I’m confident that our future is bright. I have had the opportunity to work closely with President-designate Tim Killeen and he has the right kind of experiences to elevate our educational and research missions, a personality and collaborative style that fits the needs of the role, and a deep commitment to serving our students, our state and our nation.

He also has all of you. Your hard work, scholarship, integrity and passion lifted the University to where it is today and will help lead it to a new era of service that matches the legacy of its past.

Thank you for your support, your kindness and your dedication and loyalty to the University of Illinois.  

Robert A. Easter