Patrick Phillips to lead the UO during search for new president

Johnsoon Hall

The Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon voted unanimously to appoint Patrick Phillips as interim president of the university during a special board meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Phillips, who currently serves as the provost and senior vice president, will take over for President Michael H. Schill, who is leaving the UO to become president at Northwestern University.

Phillips, whose term will begin Aug. 20, has held his current post since July 2019. He first joined the university as a biology faculty member in 2000.

Board of trustees Chair Ginevra Ralph noted that with all the major academic initiatives currently underway and efforts that include The Ballmer Institute, the new Portland campus and second phase of the Knight Campus, Phillips is “well-positioned to ensure the university doesn’t skip a beat.”

“I want to thank Michael for his incredible service and Patrick for stepping up at this critical moment,” Ralph said.

“I know you have made a great choice in Patrick in the interim president,” Schill added. “Patrick has been a major partner in almost everything I’ve done since we’ve moved through my presidency.”

Phillips echoed Schill’s sentiments on the strength and longevity of their partnership that goes back to before Phillips was provost and added that he was “humbled and honored” to be approved as the interim president of the university.

“I could not be more firmly committed to this role as interim president, and will invest all of my energy to help define how we could best serve our broader role as a university in the state that is completely authentic to the University of Oregon,” Phillips said, “not only to serve our role as the University of Oregon but to capitalize on our place and become the true university for Oregon that the state needs and that the world beyond will benefit from.”

Phillips has served in several leadership roles, including head of the Department of Biology, associate vice president for research, special adviser to the president, and inaugural executive director of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. 

He will lead a university in the midst of several major academic initiatives and leadership transitions, as well as developing its new Portland campus, The Ballmer Institute for Children’s Behavioral Health, and the second phase of the Knight Campus.

“Ginevra’s first words to me were about maintaining momentum, maintaining vision, and I think we can do that,” Phillips said. “The leadership group is truly outstanding. It makes it very easy to continue to move forward. That is a testament to President Schill and the group he has both built and retained.”

Phillips also discussed the critical role the university plays in the state and as a driver in its success as it fulfills its mission educating the coming generations of students.

“We need to keep expressing the view that Oregon the state needs a great University of Oregon to fulfill where it’s going,” Phillips said. “More and more we also need to be attentive to the lifeline trajectory of our students, not just the time that they here, their well-being while they are on campus, but set them up for a lifetime of well-being.”

Schill shared his appreciation and support for the board and university community since his arrival on campus in 2015.

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Schill said. “This job has been so much more than a job to me: It’s been a personal joy.”

Under Schill’s leadership, the university launched The Knight Campus, The Ballmer Institute, and partnerships such as Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance, completed a $3.2 billion fundraising campaign and grew the endowment to $1.3 billion. Under his Oregon Commitment initiative to improve student success, the university improved the four-year graduation rate by more than 10 percentage points, increased total student financial aid to $43 million, and opened Willie and Donald Tykeson Hall dedicated to academic and career advising and the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center.

“We will be personally and institutionally forever indebted to him,” Ralph said.

The board will discuss the plan to launch an “expeditious and robust international search” to find a permanent replacement for Schill at its September board meeting, Ralph said.

The board also unanimously approved contract amendments for Athletic Director Rob Mullens and men’s basketball coach Dana Altman. Trustees voted to amend Mullens’ contract and extend it through 2030, adding five years to his existing contract. The board also voted to amend Altman’s contract, adding a year to extend it into 2028.

The full materials from the meeting can be found on the trustees website.

By Jim Murez, University Communications