UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will be stepping down from his position to return to his previous career as a transplant surgeon. Cigarroa has been the Chancellor since his appointment in 2009.

“It has been such a wonderful privilege to work with countless and exceptional professionals throughout the UT System,” Cigarroa said, according to a press release. “Together we have been able to impact many lives through the creation of new and transformative initiatives.”

Cigarroa — who has been in the spotlight as tensions between the Board of Regents and administrators at UT Austin have made headlines across the state — will remain at his post until a replacement can be found.

“In large part, I have completed all the goals that I set out in 2009,” Cigarroa said. He specifically commented on the progress made by UTSA and other schools that are making strides to reach tier one status.

Other accomplishments for the system that have come under his tenure include the university merger that led to the creation of UT Rio Grande Valley and laying the foundation for medical schools in Austin and South Texas.

Cigarroa’s tenure has also seen harsh criticism of UT Austin’s decision-making, particularly regarding President Bill Powers and the firing of Mack Brown, UT’s former head football coach. The Board of Regents (BoR), particularly Wallace Hall, have been accused of micromanaging in Austin.

These tensions have spilled over into the political discussion, as every member of the board was appointed by Governor Rick Perry, whose policies Powers has openly and harshly criticized.

Paul Foster, chairman of the BoR, was complimentary of Cigarroa but expressed disappointment in seeing the chancellor leave so soon. “I do not know any leader who has accomplished so much so quickly or been as effective as Chancellor Cigarroa,” Foster said. “It goes without saying that it will be challenging to find a replacement for Chancellor Cigarroa.”

The timing of Cigarroa’s resignation, however, has caused many to speculate if the decision was politically motivated, particularly given the tense relationship between the BoR and UT Austin. Because Cigarroa’s replacement will be chosen by the BoR — who were all appointed by outgoing Governor Rick Perry — some had hoped that one of this year’s gubernatorial candidates would oversee the transition when Cigarroa did step down. As the Texas Tribune put it, “Cigarroa could not have done Perry a bigger favor.”

Cigarroa, however, dismissed accusations that his announcement was made for anything but personal reasons. “The timing made a lot of sense to me because I had time to reflect upon many of the successes we’ve had in the last five years,” Cigarroa said. He also expressed his desire for UT Austin to “become America’s finest university.”

Once the BoR can find a replacement, Cigarroa will become the head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center.

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