Current CEO of UConn Health Dr. Andrew Agwunobi has been chosen as the interim president of the University of Connecticut.
Agwunobi, who has been in his position at UConn Health since 2014, will replace former president Thomas Katsouleas, whose resignation was announced last week.
The Board of Trustees approved Agwunobi’s selection unanimously on Wednesday, making him the first president of color in the University’s history. He will begin his new role on July 1.
At a meeting on Wednesday, Board Chair Dan Toscano called Agwunobi “an absolute masterclass in leadership,” adding that he had increased revenues at UConn Health by an average of 10 percent yearly over the last six years.
Agwunobi, a pediatrician born in Scotland, has a degree in medicine from the University of Nigeria and an MBA from Stanford. Before coming to UConn, he led health systems in Atlanta, Washington state and California. He also oversaw Medicaid administration and regulation of healthcare facilities in Florida.
In his six years at UConn Health, Agwunobi has overseen $800 million in construction projects, including the new teaching hospital and Outpatient Pavilion, and a $100 million installation of a new medical records system.
As of June 2020, UConn Health was worth $1.2 billion in assets and had $2.9 billion in liabilities, according to a report from the state auditors. In April, the university asked state legislators to put aside $174 million over the next three years to address the employees’ increased pension and healthcare costs .
Toscano said that experience was a priority in choosing Katsouleas’ successor, pointing out that Agwunobi was well-known not only throughout the university, but also in the legislature and at the state.
“There are certain places where he will need to get to know people,” said Toscano. “Most important in my mind are the students across our campus.”
When asked about disagreements between Katsouleas and the Board of Trustees, Toscano said he was “very comfortable having disagreements in public or in executive session.” But Toscano would not comment on the topic of those disagreements.
In response to his nomination, Agwunobi said he was “sort of gobsmacked a little bit, and just truly, truly honored,” to be chosen.
Agwunobi said his first priority as interim president would be reopening the university at a “near-full capacity” in the fall. He said he would be continuing the university’s long-term strategic planning, working to improve opportunities for research and furthering several construction projects, including the Northwest Science Quad and renovating the Gant Science Complex.
Katsouleas will transition to a role as a full-time, tenured professor in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Stephanie Reitz, spokesperson for UConn, said that a contract for Agwunobi had not yet been drawn up. He made $703,000 in 2020 as CEO of UConn Health.
Toscano emphasized that Agwunobi should not be thought of as a “placeholder.”
“We will be in no hurry to name a new president,” said Toscano.