UW Regent Gerald Whitburn, appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker, resigned Thursday, ending his nearly 10-year tenure, effective immediately.
The resignation of Whitburn, one of the longest-serving Regents on the board, allows Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to appoint a replacement more suited to his higher education goals. Currently, only five of 18 Regents began their terms under the Evers administration.
Evers has previously clashed with the Board of Regents on issues such as mandatory punishments for free speech disruptions and the exclusion of faculty and staff from the UW System presidential search committee.
Walker appointed Whitburn to the board in 2011 and again in 2018 for a second term that would have lasted through May 2025, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Neither the UW System nor Whitburn have elaborated on why he resigned with more than five years left in his second term.
“Nothing lasts forever, nor should it,” Whitburn said in a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We have an excellent Board and the UW System is continuing to get better and better.”
Whitburn chaired the audit committee and sat on the executive, education and student discipline committees, along with other student appeals boards, the Journal Sentinel reported.
“Regent Gerald Whitburn’s commitment to his role as Regent was extraordinary, and his passion and experience will be missed by those who served with him,” Board of Regents President Drew Petersen said in a statement. “Whitburn is a public servant who always advocated for Wisconsin students and the integrity of public higher education.”
UW System President Ray Cross said the board will miss Whiburn’s “diligent leadership” and how he made the UW System more publicly accountable.
Outside of his time on the board, Whitburn is the retired chairman and CEO of Church Mutual Insurance Co. in Merrill, Wisconsin. He also served as Wisconsin’s labor secretary and secretary of health and social services on Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson’s cabinet.
Whitburn also earned degrees at both UW-Oshkosh and UW-Madison, along with studying at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Evers thanked Whitburn for his service on the Board of Regents, saying in a statement, “Being a Regent is hard, important work, and he handled it always with statesmanship and decency.”