MADISON – Chancellor John D. Wiley, who has earned a reputation as a campus builder and a farsighted leader since becoming the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s chief executive in 2001, announced today that he will step down in September 2008.

An Indiana native who has spent more than 30 years on the Madison campus, Wiley will relinquish the helm of a university whose international status as a leading research and teaching institution grew under his watch.

“It has been both a challenge and a privilege to lead this university during an important time in its history,” says Wiley. “The university has never been better poised to improve the lives of Wisconsin residents and take a leading role in reshaping the state’s economy.”

Wiley, 65, says the timing is right for him to step out of the chancellor’s role, which will allow his successor the time to prepare for the university’s reaccreditation and for the 2009-11 state budget.

Gov. Jim Doyle praised Wiley’s achievements as the leader of the UW System’s flagship university.

“A world-leading research institution that drives our economic growth, highly educated graduates ready for the jobs of the future – this is John Wiley’s legacy,” Doyle says.

The governor adds, “Chancellor Wiley has been an excellent leader whose work to rebuild campus, particularly in the areas of science, engineering, business and medicine, has made the University of Wisconsin the envy of the nation. From the Institutes for Discovery to the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, Chancellor Wiley has helped build an economic engine that will drive Wisconsin’s future. Above all, he has demanded the highest education standards for Wisconsin students, ensuring a bright future for them and our state.”

In promoting academics and research, nurturing athletics – both on and off the field – building philanthropy, promoting student access and affordability, and building campus diversity, Wiley set the tone for UW-Madison as it began the 21st century.

“I’ve always been impressed by John’s broad, strategic view of higher education and the key role that UW-Madison plays within that bigger framework,” says Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System. “He understands that a strong UW-Madison contributes to a vibrant UW System, and that the success of our entire public university system contributes to the vitality of our flagship campus.”

Wiley says that the university has benefited from a series of transitions that began with the hiring of Donna E. Shalala as UW-Madison chancellor in 1988. Shalala hired David Ward as provost and Wiley as dean of the Graduate School. When she left the position, Ward took over as chancellor and Wiley as provost. Wiley then succeeded Ward as chancellor in 2001.

“The institution has been very lucky to have a period of great continuity, from Donna to David to me,” Wiley says.

He adds, “I remember telling the search committee – when they asked about my vision for change at the university – that if they wanted somebody who felt that it needed some wrenching, big change, then I was the wrong person. I felt it needed to be steady on course. I’ve kept that in mind the whole time.”

Although his leadership has been steady, it has also adapted to the campus’s needs and the challenges posed by tight state budgets.

“It’s been a period of cut after cut, as the state faced difficult fiscal problems. To the extent that we were able to do that with minimal adverse effect on academic programs, I’m very proud of that,” Wiley says. “Our faculty and staff have worked through some difficult times because of those fiscal constraints, and that’s a tribute to their dedication to our mission.”

A significant part of the university’s success has been in the deans that have led its colleges and schools, Wiley says.

“One of the things that I am most proud of is the quality, innovation and teamwork that this group of deans has shown,” the chancellor says. “They are a talented and dynamic group whose leadership and judgment are indispensable.”

Wiley has guided the university through its largest building boom since the 1960s. Construction cranes were a common sight during the last few years as the face of the campus changed – fueled heavily by gifts to the university – to accommodate new research labs, classrooms, residence halls and the West Campus Cogeneration Facility.

The university also adopted a Campus Master Plan designed both as a blueprint for the campus’s redevelopment in the next 20 years and as a roadmap to making the campus more livable and sustainable.

During his last months as chancellor, Wiley will devote special attention to raising the funds needed to complete the East Campus redevelopment. The plan calls for creating a vibrant arts-and-humanities district along a seven-block pedestrian corridor stretching from the Memorial Union Terrace to just north of Regent Street.

“It’s partly the charm of the Memorial Union Terrace,” Wiley says. “I think of the East Campus project, in part, as a way to extend the Union Terrace through the campus to provide a very pleasant, pedestrian-friendly pathway through the most expressively creative part of the campus. For future generations of students, it will be the most memorable part of campus. It will be the signature experience of being on the campus for all of our students.”

Plans call for construction of an expanded Chazen Museum of Art, a music performance center, new arts facilities and two new classroom buildings to replace the existing Humanities Building. The redevelopment is already under way, with two new residence halls, Smith Hall and Ogg Hall, in operation and new student health, financial and activity space under construction at the public-private redevelopment of University Square.

The university’s approach to fundraising, through the University of Wisconsin Foundation, also sharpened, innovated and intensified during Wiley’s tenure as state support for the university dipped to about 18 percent of the total budget. Since 2001, the university has raised nearly $2 billion from a devoted donor base – more than was given in the history of the university leading up to 2001.

“Wisconsin alumni are unusually loyal,” Wiley says. “We have produced a lot of fabulously successful leaders and business people who give back generously to all parts of the university, academics and athletics, and not just to their department or school.”

Andrew “Sandy” Wilcox, president of the UW Foundation, says Wiley’s own loyalty to the university inspires others.

“John’s strength is that he’s just so darn genuine with people. He’s very up-front, very sincere and very passionate about what he does, and that’s infectious,” Wilcox says. “I think that’s one of the driving forces behind our successful capital campaign: Alumni really respond well to John because those qualities always come through, and they see his commitment to the institution.”

Under Wiley’s leadership, the university’s research enterprise thrived. According to the National Science Foundation, UW-Madison now conducts more than $900 million worth of research annually – a substantial achievement, given the intense competition among universities for research funding and the flattening of federal and state budgets.

The university’s drive to attain research breakthroughs has landed substantial grants for the university during the Wiley years. In September, the university received the largest formal grant in its history – $125 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund the work of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.

During the Wiley years, the university has worked to encourage diversity among students, faculty and staff. Although progress has been made, the chancellor readily acknowledges that more work needs to be done.

“It’s been slow, but steady,” Wiley says.

Wiley has also worked to keep the university accessible and affordable, pushing for more need-based financial aid for students and establishing a number of transfer programs to provide more avenues for students to access a UW-Madison degree.

The chancellor and his wife, Georgia, have provided personal financial support for the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, which benefits academically talented underrepresented ethnic minority students, the Dean of Students Crisis Fund for students and campus day care. The Wileys also have contributed to a cappella groups on campus, including the MadHatters, Tangled Up in Blue and Redefined, and have endowed a trumpet position in the UW Marching Band.

“The best parts of the job are meeting with, talking to, hearing from and interacting with students and alumni. They remind me what it’s all about – what our jobs are,” Wiley says. “I like to see the input and the output end of our business.”

Wiley’s successor is expected to play a major role in the university’s reaccreditation process, the centerpiece of which will be a site visit in April 2009. The university is preparing for the visit by trying to answer the question: “What will it mean to be a great public university in a changing world?”

Especially in light of declining state support for higher education, Wiley says his successor will be challenged to provide workable answers.

“What makes us a public university is not where our budget comes from so much as what our mission is. As a public university, we have a mission to serve the state and serve the public,” he says. “We’ve got to figure out how we can continue to be focused on the public mission of providing research and high-quality teaching and outreach to the public when the public, directly through the taxpayers, is providing less and less of the base budget that keeps it all going.”