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McRaven, new Texas chancellor, hopes to mend ties with lawmakers

The four-star admiral who will succeed a surgeon as chancellor of the University of Texas System pledged Thursday to follow some of the tenets of his predecessor but also hinted that he would work to repair the system’s fractured relationship with the state Legislature.

“My decision to accept this position was a direct result of my personal meetings with the regents and those that reached out to me by phone,” Adm. William McRaven said in brief remarks following the UT board’s unanimous vote to name him chancellor, effective Jan. 5. “Their passion, their commitment, their desire to make this system the best in the world was unmistakable — and something my wife, Georgeann, and I wanted to be part of.”

McRaven, 58, was named sole finalist for chancellor last month, but state law requires a 21-day waiting period before firming up such an appointment. He brings a certain star power to the position, having coordinated the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, and his compensation package — $1.6 million a year in salary and deferred compensation, almost twice that of the current chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa — reflects his market value, regents said.

McRaven earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UT-Austin and went on to become a Navy SEAL. Currently commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, overseeing 67,000 special forces, he is scheduled to retire next Thursday after 37 years in the military.

In brief comments following the regents’ vote, McRaven praised Cigarroa, saying he would subscribe to three tenets expounded by his predecessor in 2011: the unwavering pursuit of “greatness” in everything the system does, the notion that teaching and scholarly research go hand in hand and the flexibility to adapt in the face of demographic and technological changes.

“This university system should be known for producing tomorrow’s leaders in every field of endeavor,” McRaven said.

In a nod to the legislative session that begins in January, McRaven thanked the Legislature for supporting the UT System and said he looks forward “to building a strong relationship with all the lawmakers who represent the people of Texas.”

The system’s relations with lawmakers have been troubled of late. Last week, a House panel censured and admonished Regent Wallace L. Hall Jr. but also blamed the system for losing “institutional control” by failing to rein in a “rogue regent.” Hall has swamped UT-Austin with records requests and is the focus of a criminal investigation by Travis County prosecutors, in part for his handling of confidential student information.

McRaven will become a UT System employee in December, holding the position of chancellor-designate without pay.

When he becomes chancellor in January, his annual salary will be $1.2 million, plus $400,000 in deferred compensation. He will be eligible for non-guaranteed annual performance and retention bonuses totaling $300,000, plus a one-time completion bonus of $300,000 for serving out his three-year contract term. He will receive a one-time relocation and transitional living payment of $300,000.

Cigarroa’s compensation is $862,500, including a salary of $ 750,000 and a one-time merit payment of $112,500. He will remain as chancellor through December and then will lead the pediatric transplant team at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“We felt like it was appropriate,” Regents Chairman Paul Foster said of McRaven’s compensation package. “He’s a highly sought-after individual.”

Regent Gene Powell added, “We really think we’ve hired him at a very competitive price considering his market value.”

McRaven did not grant any interviews Thursday. “He’s not going to take any questions from the press today,” Foster said, “but you’ll get your chance.”

Compensation breakdown

The compensation for UT System’s new chancellor, William McRaven, includes:

  • $1.2 million annual salary
  • $400,000 in annual deferred compensation
  • $300,000 one-time relocation and transitional living payment
  • $300,000 possible in performance and retention bonuses
  • $300,000 bonus for serving out his three-year contract

©2014 Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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