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July 6, 1995

O'Connor criticizes board, defends own performance during 4 years as chancellor

Don't misread my successor the way you misread me," outgoing Chancellor J. Dennis O'Connor warned the Board of Trustees at its annual meeting June 22.

In his departing remarks, O'Connor also criticized trustees for failing to spell out Pitt's goals and mission for him when he became chancellor in 1991.

Citing improvements achieved during his administration, O'Connor insisted that Pitt is "a stronger institution and a better place than it was four years ago." Since announcing in April that he would step down as chancellor — a move reportedly prompted when key trustees made it clear they had lost confidence in him — O'Connor had said virtually nothing in public about his resignation or his proposed severance package.

The latter will provide O'Connor with a year's sabbatical and five months' vacation and leave at his current $221,500 chancellor's salary plus the option of a tenured professorship in the biological sciences department at $177,200 per year. Following O'Connor's remarks, the trustees debated, but ultimately rejected, a resolution to reconsider the severance package. See story this page .

O'Connor sat expressionless during the debate. He did not comment during or after the meeting about his severance deal, but he did make some pointed remarks in his report to the board.

He began by thanking "the faculty, the staff and the students who have made the last four years, I think, a very effective and productive four years for change and enhancement at the University of Pittsburgh. There have been many changes, ranging from the renovation of our classrooms and educational environments to the enhancement of the dormitories and cafeterias and the improved infrastructure for communication on the campus.

"In addition, there have been a number of new academic programs, not the least of which was the College of Business Administration, whose freshman class will be entering this September." Those and other accomplishments are listed in a nine-page booklet compiled by O'Connor's office.

To the trustees, O'Connor said: "To begin with, I've enjoyed what I've been doing, in a tenure somewhat briefer than I anticipated. But I reaffirm my belief that the University is a stronger institution and a better place than it was four years ago. To those of you who were part, either directly or indirectly, in my being here, I want to thank you for what has been the experience of a lifetime.

"I do hope that those of you who will search for the University's 17th chancellor will articulate the institutional values, missions and goals in a manner that upon my arrival was distinguished by its absence. I hope that you, the trustees, will communicate with clarity and distinctness the aspiration to enhance our University's international reputation for excellence while at the same time honoring our regional obligations.

"I urge you to inquire of the incoming candidates their values and goals of higher education and to determine the degree of congruity with yours, thus avoiding the turmoil you have created for me in the past several months. Don't misread my successor the way you misread me.

"Finally, I look forward to completing my term in July in order to ensure a seamless transition in the governance of the University of Pittsburgh."

— Bruce Steele

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