Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson has agreed to serve as University of Wisconsin System Interim President.

The Board of Regents announced Friday that Thompson, the state’s only governor to serve four terms, will assume the new leadership role effective July 1.

UW System President Ray Cross is retiring, and the only finalist for the position withdrew his name from consideration last week.

“The University of Wisconsin System is the state’s most valuable asset, and I will be its biggest advocate and its toughest evaluator,” Thompson said in the news release. “No other institution in the state can do more to improve lives, communities, and Wisconsin’s economy.”

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents President Andrew S. Petersen said he asked Thompson to serve as interim president because of his legacy of bringing people together and finding common ground.

“Governor Thompson is a statesman who offers the kind of leadership the UW System needs right now,” Petersen said. “I have witnessed his collaborative yet direct leadership style. He is perfectly suited to serve as Interim President.”

The move was greeted enthusiastically by Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature, which has budget oversight for the UW System.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tweeted that Thompson is “a great selection” for the interim post.  “I want to thank Governor Thompson for stepping up to serve our state again in this capacity.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald released the following statement:

“I could not be happier with the Board of Regents’ pick. Governor Thompson has always been one of the University of Wisconsin System’s strongest advocates. As we face unprecedented times, there is nobody better to step in and make sure Wisconsin’s prized universities continue to thrive.”

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