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UConn President Susan Herbst to Step Down in 2019

The state’s flagship university will have a new leader for the first time in nearly a decade.

President Obama Honors The University Of Connecticut Men's Basketball Championship Team
Susan Herbst (center) stands in the White House as then-President Barack Obama (right) honors the 2011 UConn men’s basketball national champions, led by Kemba Walker (left).
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After leading UConn since 2010, President Susan Herbst announced she will step down from her position in June 2019 when her contract expires.

“After a lengthy period of reflection, I recently informed Governor Malloy and Chairman Kruger that I have decided to step down as UConn’s president next summer, in 2019, when I will have completed eight years of service at the university,” Herbst said in a statement.

“Stepping down was not an easy decision by any means. But a university is forever and each of us knows that we are only its temporary caretakers and champions. None of us are indispensable and the right time for a change always arrives eventually. With my employment agreement concluding on July 1 of next year, I felt that would be the right time for me.”

During her tenure, Herbst helped raise UConn academically to its ranking as the 18th-best public university according to US News & World Report, its highest ranking ever. She also worked with the UConn Foundation to raise the university’s endowment from $272.3 million in 2010 to over $421 million in 2018. This was done despite dealing with budget cuts due to the state’s fiscal crisis.

Athletically, UConn won nine national championships - two in men’s basketball, four in women’s basketball and three in field hockey - during Herbst’s time as president. Despite getting a raw deal with conference realignment, Herbst’s commitment to running the athletic program like a Power-Five school has helped UConn maintain its status as one of the top athletic departments in the country, largely due to new facilities like the Werth Champions Center and her commitment to future upgrades for the soccer, hockey, baseball and softball complexes.

Herbst also dealt with some of the most difficult decisions the athletic department faced in the last few decades. Herbst made two hires at Athletic Director - Warde Manuel in 2012 and David Benedict in 2016 - that made lasting impacts in Storrs.

Manuel’s decision to fire football coach Paul Pasqualoni and hire Bob Diaco led to a bowl appearance in 2015, but Diaco’s extension cost UConn millions when he was fired and replaced with Randy Edsall in 2016 after Manuel left for his alma mater, Michigan.

Prior to his exit, Manuel also was able to move the men’s and women’s hockey programs to Hockey East, the country’s premier hockey conference, and nailed the hire of Mike Cavanaugh as the men’s hockey team’s head coach. While Herbst never was able to get an on-campus arena built, the Huskies have consistently been at the top of the Hockey East attendance rankings at the XL Center in Hartford.

Herbst and Manuel navigated legendary men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun exit in 2012 by replacing him with assistant coach Kevin Ollie at Calhoun’s request. The Kevin Ollie era led to the program’s fourth national championship in 2014 and a handful of NCAA tournament appearances, but like Diaco, an extension offered by Manuel that made sense at the time has become a major problem for a cash-strapped athletic department that Benedict has had to attempt to unravel.

With Ollie now gone, UConn landed its top target in former University of Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, who hopes to lead the Huskies back to their Calhoun-era glory days. Benedict seems to be doing a great job so far, particularly in areas such as fan experience, dealing with the constant specter of realignment, and facilities.

While UConn’s athletic prowess has had high peaks and low valleys during Herbst’s tenure, her guidance has led to enough quality hires and investments into coaches, facilities, and players to provide a strong foundation for the future.