The University of South Florida Board of Trustees voted unanimously to confirm Rhea Law as interim president at a special meeting Monday morning. Her appointment will next go to the Florida Board of Governors for approval on Aug. 31.
“We need an interim president who can provide a calm confidence for our students, and our faculty, and our staff,” Board Chair Will Weatherford said. “Someone who has the leadership skills to help us pragmatically move forward on key issues, and who has the relationships across the region and across our state to garner support for USF as we enter this next exciting chapter.”
In addition to being a founding member of the USF Board of Trustees, Law later became its first and only female chairperson. She was also part of the last two presidential search committees at USF, including the one that identified Currall as a candidate.
Weatherford approached Law about the interim president position two weeks ago. She was the only person to be nominated for the role.
“I got a call from Will Weatherford and he was telling me that they were looking for an interim president. And I immediately started thinking about candidates that might be appropriate. And he said, ‘Oh, no, no, that's not what I'm calling you about. I'm calling you because you're at the top of my list,’” Law told WUSF last week.
Trustees approved Law after praising her leadership, work ethic, and dedication to the university.
“Thank you so much for this great honor,” Law said. “It really allows me to give back to an institution which has given so much to me. The most exciting part is we’re just getting started.”
Law, who earned an undergraduate degree in management from USF while working at the Office of Sponsored Research, said she plans to listen to stakeholders and continue pursuing the “grandiose goals” the university hopes to achieve in the next decade.
“I am not coming in to move us in a different direction,” she emphasized. “I am here to enable and to support our university community to continue its momentum and to create a solid foundation for our next president. I have no doubt our best days are yet ahead of us.”
Law will lead the university until a new president is selected. The interim contract approved by Trustees Monday says that she will receive a base salary of $575,000,
prorated to the amount of time she serves as interim president, as well as a $12,000 car allowance and $84,000 in housing stipends. She is also eligible for performance-based compensation of up to $275,000.
Those terms match what Currall received as president, and what he will continue receiving under his terms of departure.
Currall will receive his base salary of $575,000, in addition to $230,000 in deferred compensation, and $269,500 in unpaid performance compensation over the next 15 months, when he is on professional development leave. Board members approved that contract at the Monday meeting.
USF said it would consider granting him “president emeritus” status in a separation agreement signed last month, but trustees moved to exclude that title from the terms they voted on.
“We’re very grateful to Dr. Currall and his service to the university. It was a very challenging time that he led us through, I don't think it can be minimized,” Weatherford said. “But there's a new chapter ahead for the University of South Florida.”
When he announced his retirement from the presidency last month, Currall said, after his leave, he would rejoin the university as a faculty member in the Muma College of Business.
Trustees plan to put together a search committee for the next president by the end of the month. Weatherford said the university is "not in a rush, but not slowing down" when it comes to finding a new president.
Presidential search processes typically take between six months and one year.
Law hopes the position attracts leaders enthusiastic about USF’s trajectory.
“They need to really see the potential that USF has and be willing to roll up their sleeves and move forward in helping us achieve the goals we have,” she told WUSF last week.
“They should be very mindful of the extremely good talent that we have here at the university, and be respectful of our students, our faculty, and our administrators. I mean, this is how the university came to this point. So we want a president who's going to be a partner, and help us achieve those goals.”