Pederson Announces Retirement as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Donald O. Pederson, who as vice chancellor for finance and administration played an integral role in the transformation of the University of Arkansas, has announced he plans to retire, effective June 30.
Pederson served as acting vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1985 before being named to the position in 1986. He was appointed vice chancellor for finance and administration in September 1998. Upon his retirement he will be the longest serving senior administrator in University of Arkansas history, having served as vice chancellor a total of 29 years, working under Chancellors Daniel Ferritor, John A. White and G. David Gearhart.
“Don Pederson has been a key individual in the growth and development of the University of Arkansas,” said Gearhart. “It has been his role to take the visions and plans of campus leaders and find the ways and means to make them a reality. The University of Arkansas would not be where it is now – with record enrollment, a record number of new and restored facilities, and a record budget surplus – without Don Pederson.
“I have worked with many university administrators through the years, but none more capable, hardworking and committed to quality than Don Pederson. His institutional knowledge and experience will be impossible to replace. He told me a year ago that he was thinking about retirement, and I appreciate all he has done for me and the University of Arkansas through many years of incredible leadership.”
As vice chancellor Pederson has managed a division of 750 staff members who essentially provide support for the U of A’s academic mission. The division oversees all business and finance operations at the university, as well as human resources, information technology, University Police, and parking and transit. Everything that has to do with campus facilities – upkeep, planning, purchasing property and construction – falls under this division.
The unprecedented increase in construction on campus – renovation and new construction – is largely possible due to the $940 million in bond and debt financing and refinancing managed by Pederson. These bonds provided the funding for well over 60 past, current and future projects – ranging from the expansion and improvements to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to the Maple Hill residence halls to the restoration and expansion of Ozark Hall. The successful bond issues provided a solid financial foundation for a decade’s worth of campus improvements.
In 2009, deep in the national economic recession, Chancellor Gearhart turned to Pederson to chair the ambitious Commission on Affordability and Cost Containment. The group adopted a decentralized approach, calling on units across campus to suggest ways to reduce spending to ensure funding for higher priority expenses. In fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012, the last year for which figures are available, the university realized a total of nearly $62 million in cost savings and containment. This came during a time when state spending on higher education was challenging, and it helped the U of A keep tuition increases lower than many other institutions in Arkansas and across the country.
Pederson’s conservative budgeting policies also enabled the university to accumulate a steady record of budget surpluses, building the university reserves as insurance against unexpected events and improving the university’s liquidity until it is in the range of $150 to $200 million this fiscal year.
In the last few years, Pederson directed the investigation into a $3.9 million deficit in the Division of Advancement’s budget. That investigation determined the causes of the deficit spending, and Pederson implemented several measures to prevent this kind of problem from recurring. Subsequent audits by state and University of Arkansas System auditors confirmed that Pederson’s conclusions were correct and supported the enhanced budgeting protocols.
The Arkansas Alumni Association recognized Pederson with the Honorary Alumni Award in 2009, the ultimate honor for someone who serves the university but is not a graduate.
On the occasion of his retirement, Pederson quoted from American author and journalist Rebecca Harding Davis (1831-1910): “We are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath, are parts of this banquet.
“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been part of the banquet that is the University of Arkansas, sharing the table with many wonderful students, staff, and faculty,” Pederson said.
Don Pederson joined the University of Arkansas faculty as an assistant professor of physics in 1972, and published 60 scientific papers in the field of condensed matter physics. From 1978-83 he was chairman of the department. He was named associate dean for research and faculty development of what is now the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences in 1983, before being appointed as acting vice chancellor for academic affairs in 1985.
Pederson earned his bachelor of science in physics at Texas Tech University and his doctorate at Rice University.
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