Gov. Pat Quinn has named former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.
Fitzgerald will replace first term trustee Lawrence Oliver II, according to a news release from the governor's office.
The appointment marks a quick return to the public eye for Fitzgerald, a career prosecutor who left the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago for private law practice in 2012 after a long run that included putting former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich behind bars.
"Patrick Fitzgerald is a friend of mine, and I think a friend of anyone who is looking for education in Illinois that's open to everyone, that gives the opportunity to make our society better," Quinn said this morning following a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial breakfast in Chicago. "He's a very committed person.
"And I sat down with Patrick Fitzgerald and he told me how he wanted to get involved in education in Illinois in a way that could help men and women across our state. So I thought this was a very good area for him to serve in."
U. of I. board chairman Christopher Kennedy said having Fitzgerald on the board will "set the tone at the top of who we are going to be."
"To have someone whose name is so associated with integrity and public honesty and stewardship is great for the university," Kennedy said.
Kennedy, who has led the board since he was appointed by Quinn in 2009, said the governor told him about the new appointment Thursday night.
"We are lucky to have him. Truthfully, there are a lot of personnel issues and a lot of those are moral and ethical issues," Kennedy said. "Having someone who has spent a lifetime in that space ... is really helpful."
The board is expected to elect its chairman and other officers at its next board Thursday, as it does every January. Kennedy does not expect Fitzgerald to be one of the top officers.
"The university is a complicated place and I think he will enjoy getting to know it before he is burdened by that level of responsibility. But that is not my decision."
Oliver told the Tribune he received a call from Quinn's office Wednesday afternoon with the news that he would not be reappointed. Oliver, who was appointed as a political independent and maintains that affiliation, said he suspects he was not reappointed because he voted in a 2010 Democratic primary.
U. of I.'s nine-member board has to be politically balanced, according to state statute. The current board has five Democrats, three Republicans and one Independent.
Both of the other two board members whose terms expire Monday say they were told they were reappointed to another six-year term. James Montgomery, a Democrat and a Chicago attorney, refused the governor's call to resign during the university scandal over politically connected admissions to the school. Dr. Timothy Koritz, an anesthesiologist at Rockford Memorial Hospital, was appointed by Quinn when he revamped the board in 2009. Koritz, a Republican, was told Wednesday that he would serve a second term.
Oliver, chief counsel for investigations at the Boeing Co. who served on Quinn's Illinois Reform Commission, said he was disappointed by the governor's decision. He said he voted in the 2010 Democratic primary to support David Hoffman for U.S. Senate.
In the news release, Quinn also named three re-appointments to the Northern Illinois University Board of Trustees. They are businessman Robert Boey, on the board since 1996; Dr. John Butler, a Chicago-area business consultant who is a NIU alumnus and has served on the board since 2007; and Wheeler Coleman, a 2011 Quinn appointee who is vice president and chief technology officer at Heath Care Service Corporation and former vice-president of the NIU Alumni Association.Copyright © 2015, CT Now