The University of Wyoming board of trustees announced three candidates — all current or former UW vice presidents — Friday morning to take over on an interim basis for President Laurie Nichols after her contract expires June 30.
The candidates are Chris Boswell, who served as UW’s vice president for governmental and community affairs from 2012-18; Bill Mai, who was UW’s vice president for finance and administration from 2013-18; and Neil Theobald, the university’s current vice president for finance and administration.
After a 15-minute private executive session earlier Friday, the board of trustees publicly announced the candidates would be revealed later in the day in a written statement through spokesman Chad Baldwin’s office, a unanimously approved motion.
In the statement announcing the three candidates, the board also said it would interview the three candidates starting at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. The board will likely announce May 20 its decision on who will step into Nichols’ role. The board will hold a press conference that day as well. The selected candidate will serve in the interim role for the coming academic year at least, according to the press release.
The interviews Wednesday will take place in an executive session, which are held in private and kept confidential, during the board’s regular meeting at the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. The board will accept public input online until 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“We are delighted to have three very strong candidates willing to serve the state and the university in this important leadership role at a key time in UW’s history,” Board President Dave True said in the announcement. “Our intent is to select an acting president who will, among other things, maintain the positive momentum of the university and lay the groundwork for a long-term president.”
Boswell is a former Sweetwater County legislator and a UW graduate. He served for years as the chief of staff to Gov. Dave Freudenthal before working for Gov. Matt Mead as a legislative liaison. From 2011-12, he worked as the director of the state Department of Administration and Information. He then became UW’s vice president for governmental and community affairs — essentially becoming UW’s lobbyist and point-person for dealing with the Legislature. He retired in 2018.
Mai was most recently a consultant for Mead. Like Boswell, he retired from UW in 2018 after serving for five years as the university’s finance and administration vice president. He worked for Mead and the state in a variety of roles before that. He too is a UW alum — he has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the university.
Neil Theobald, who has served in Mai’s former role since July, previously worked as a financial and government affairs adviser at the University of Indiana. He was president of Temple University until 2016, when he resigned after firing his provost and was himself at risk of being sacked, according to Inside Higher Ed. Before that, he held several roles at Indiana. He also taught at both Temple and Indiana, as well as at various Scottish universities and at the University of Washington.
All three candidates have experience working with various state legislatures. Both Boswell and Mai worked with Wyoming’s and with Wyoming governors, and Theobald has similar experience in Indiana.
Board member Macey Moore explained Friday morning that True had created a committee of six trustees to do preliminary work on finding an acting president. That committee included True and the board’s three other officers — Jeff Marsh, John McKinley and Kermit Brown — as well as Michelle Sullivan and Moore.
The leaders of the faculty and staff senates — Ken Chestek and Renee Ballard, respectively — would each be involved in the interviewing and selection process too, Moore and True said.
Donal O’Toole, the outgoing president of the Faculty Senate, thanked the board for allowing the senate to be involved.
This week’s update is the most detailed one the board has provided about its plan for an acting president. The campus has been in tumult since March 25, when UW announced in a brief statement that Nichols would not continue as president after her contract expires on June 30. Little detail has been released on that decision, with even Nichols saying publicly that she has no idea why her contract was not renewed.
The Friday morning announcement is a sign that the board is taking steps to be more transparent as it moves to replace Nichols, both on an interim and then permanent basis. No information about her permanent successor was released publicly Friday morning, though True has said the search may begin before she leaves office next month.