Ex-UConn president Austin named to head state higher education board

Philip Austin during the 2010 commencement ceremonies at the University of Connecticut.
Philip Austin during the 2010 commencement ceremonies at the University of Connecticut. University of Connecticut

Hartford — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Friday that he will appoint former University of Connecticut President Philip E. Austin as the interim head of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Austin will replace Robert A. Kennedy, who resigned early Friday morning from his $340,000-a-year job amid pressure from state legislators of both parties following revelations that he gave 21 secret, unauthorized salary raises totaling nearly $300,000 to his staff.

Kennedy also admitted to spending six weeks at his summer home in Minnesota despite a clause in his contract stipulating that such time be for professional development.

A former University of Maine president, Kennedy was hand-picked by Malloy last year.

The board oversees the state’s 12 community colleges, four state universities and Charter Oak State College.

Michael Meotti, the board’s executive vice president, also stepped down Friday, saying he did not want to become a distraction to the board’s “change agenda” for higher education. Meotti had received a $48,000 raise that lifted his salary to $232,244.

Kennedy conceded this week that the raises — now rescinded — were a mistake. The raises were first disclosed Monday by The Connecticut Mirror.

Members of the Board of Regents voted in a special meeting to recommend Austin as interim president. Austin, whose salary has yet to be determined, served as UConn’s president from October 1996 to September 2007 and oversaw the university’s 2000 renovation program.

“Dr. Austin is an outstanding choice by the Board of Regents,” Malloy said in a statement. “His reputation is beyond reproach, and he will bring much needed stability to the Board of Regents’ central office the first day he walks in the door.”

j.reindl@theday.com

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