NEWS UPDATE: Rao accepts presidency of VCU, leaves June 30

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By: Jackie Smith

Updated at 8:50 p.m. First post at 7 p.m.

University President Michael Rao has been named the new president of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Rao, Central Michigan University’s 12th president, will take office as VCU’s fifth president on July 1, succeeding 69-year-old Eugene Trani, who is retiring to teach as a professor at VCU.

The VCU Board of Visitors made the announcement after a closed meeting tonight to finalize his contract, which includes an annual compensation package totaling $615,000.

Rao’s VCU approved salary is $488,500, of which $176,113 is paid by state funds and $312,387, according to a VCU release.

His total package includes $66,500 in deferred compensation, a $60,000 housing allowance and use of a car.

Rao will receive a signing bonus of $275,000 and will be required to repay $200,000 if he leaves VCU within five years.

“He did share with me that he’s had offers in the past,” said former CMU Trustee John Kulhavi. “But at that conjucture he expressed interest in staying at CMU.”

Kulhavi said he isn’t surprised Rao would take a new position because the average tenure for a CMU president is eight years, whereas Rao’s has held the reins for nine.

“In that industry or that field, you have to keep moving up or your not going to have those opportunities,” Kulhavi said.

Rao, 42, has served as CMU’s president since 2000. Before that, he was the chancellor of Montana State University-Northern, and president of Mission College in Santa Clara, California.

VCU is the state’s largest state-affiliated university with two campuses in Richmond, the capital of Virginia, and has an enrollment of more than 32,000 students. The school has a heavy emphasis on medical programs.

“I believe it’s a great move for Mike and his family,” said Sid Smith, the former board of trustees chairman and vice chair of the search committee that brought Rao to CMU.

“But, they’re a very good friend of ours, so we hate to lose him,” he said.

Through a university listserv, Rao sent an e-mail to all CMU students, faculty and staff at 7:04 p.m. today.

He encouraged the CMU Board of Trustees and faculty, staff, students and alumni to “keep their perspective on your greatness and keep an eye toward the long-term future of the university.”

“There cannot be any slippage of plans for achieving the significant goals that will continue to shape this great institution,” Rao wrote.

Rao is currently under a recently renewed contract at CMU. The Board of Trustees increased Rao’s annual salary by 3 percent in December, from $293,550 to $302,357.

His contract was extended through 2016 on Jan. 1.

Under his current contract, Rao’s retention bonuses increase each year by 10 percent, starting at $100,000 in 2009, and his retirement and compensation packages increase from $46,000 to $49,000 and from $15,500 to $16,500, respectively.

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Gail Torreano said Rao will leave with “significant accomplishments” and “a great deal of positive momentum” when he departs from the university.

“We sincerely thank President Rao for his dedicated service, forward-thinking vision and extraordinary commitment to student success,” Torreano said in a press release.

Torreano and the Board of Trustees plan to engage in a “thoughtful and comprehensive” executive search in the coming weeks.

“As we face unprecedented challenges in higher education and the State of Michigan, it is imperative the Board of Trustees hires an experienced leader who is well-suited to continue our positive momentum during this critical period,” Torreano said.

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A career administrator
A timeline of Michael Rao’s administrative positions

1992 to 1994: Dean of Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif.
1994 to 1998: President of Mission College.
1998 to 2000: Chancellor of Montana State University- Northern.
2000 to Present: President of Central Michigan University.
July 1, 2009: Will become fifth president of Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Check cm-life.com for updates as the story develops.

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