Just two days into his tenure as interim president of the University of Wyoming, Neil Theobald brought in two seasoned former administrators to help run the school over the next year and to bring stability to one of the state’s largest institutions.
The two men, Bill Mai and Chris Boswell, retired last year after years in administrative positions at UW. Both have experience elsewhere in Wyoming public institutions and both were also finalists, along with Theobald, for the position of interim president. Mai was actually replaced by Theobald last July, when Mai retired as the university’s chief financial officer.
Mai will serve as an interim vice president for administration, while Boswell will become an interim VP for community affairs. Both begin their work Monday.
Theobald will serve as interim president for the next 12 months, and Boswell and Mai are both operating on similar one-year contracts. Theobald asked both men to come on and help bring stability to the university as it seeks to move forward on a number of projects.
“Boy, I need somebody who can hit the ground running and do that and is great to work with,” Theobald said of his decision to reach out to Mai and Boswell. “I’m just thrilled.”
Mai will be assuming broad administrative tasks, he and Theobald told the Star-Tribune, including the plethora of capital construction projects on the university’s plate. Mai will also oversee “human resources, HR, police, all of the management parts of campus,” Theobald said. Those duties were previously part of Mai and Theobald’s job descriptions as CFO. Theobald will maintain the financial parts of the job and will essentially shave off the administrative duties to Mai.
“I don’t think a president could do (both), quite frankly,” Mai said of being both the CEO of UW while running the university’s administrative and operations shops.
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Boswell, who previously worked as UW’s legislative point-person, will work as a liaison across the state for UW, Theobald said, including with community colleges and several other groups in various parts of the state.
Boswell and Mai both told the Star-Tribune they were happy to return to UW to help for the next year.
“Any time you hire somebody with a fair amount of institutional knowledge, it comes with benefits,” Boswell said. “And so, you just hope that a few decades of perspective can be of value. I wouldn’t hazard a guess on (if it brings) stability or not because, after all, the president is an interim president and my appointment is just for a 12-month period.”
Asked about their decisions to apply for interim president, Mai and Boswell were cagey. Boswell said he was approached and asked to throw his name into consideration, and did so. Mai said he, too, was approached by people at UW. Both declined to elaborate on who approached them.
Theobald said he decided independently to apply for the job. The board’s unanimous decision to appoint him interim president was greeted with broad praise by the university community, including from staff and faculty leaders.
The hiring of Boswell and Mai will doubtless bring familiar faces and more seasoned UW figures — though Theobald is no stranger to higher-education administration — to a university that’s seeking to move on from the lingering questions around Laurie Nichols, who until June 30 was the president of UW. Nichols’ contract expired at the end of last month, and she departed to become interim president at Black Hills State in South Dakota, a university system in which she previously worked.
Her contract was not renewed by UW’s board, a decision the board announced in late March. But the details that led to that decision are almost entirely shrouded in mystery, with board members refusing to discuss it and Nichols claiming she has no idea what happened. Efforts to obtain information about the decision by the Star-Tribune via records requests have largely been rebuffed by the university. Last month, the newspaper — along with other news outlets across Wyoming — sued the university in state court in an effort to gain access to documents withheld by UW. That litigation is ongoing.