Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly will not seek an extension of his contract after completing his three-year term in 2020, he announced Wednesday.
Instead, Reilly will return to his tenured faculty position at Arizona State University, from which he has been on leave.
In an interview with the Review Journal, Reilly said he had initially committed to a three-year term as chancellor, and though he had the option to extend, he chose not to after filing his second self-evaluation. If it seems like an early resignation, Reilly said, it’s because evaluations are done at one-year intervals and apply to the following year.
“There was nothing dramatic about it,” Reilly said.
The Board of Regents appointed Reilly in June 2017 following nearly a year without a permanent chancellor. He receives an annual salary of $425,000 under his contract and was awarded a 3 percent raise after a positive evaluation one year into his term.
Reilly oversaw a somewhat tumultuous time at NSHE that included the departure of UNLV President Len Jessup and the subsequent revocation of a $14 million gift to the UNLV medical school. In recent months, the university system found itself facing a budget deficit following raises for faculty that were underfunded by the Nevada Legislature.
Earlier this month, a professor also filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination at Truckee Meadows Community College, naming Reilly in the complaint.
But Reilly said none of those issues factored into his decision to leave, as most did not fall under his office’s direct jurisdiction.
“I don’t mean to minimize it, but $6.4 million is not a huge drain on our budget,” he said, referring to the budget shortfall. “And as chancellor, I can’t overrule a tenure decision.”
Reilly said he hopes that NSHE will continue to focus on the five goals that he set out at the beginning of his term, including expanding access to college and increasing student success by way of graduation rates.
“Individuals who come to us and don’t graduate are, in many ways, worse off than they were before,” Reilly said.
Board of Regents Chairman Jason Geddes said Wednesday that a timeline for a search for a new chancellor is still to be determined. Geddes said he understood when Reilly was appointed that it was intended to be for a three-year term.
“He has helped the system during his tenure and will continue to do so,” Geddes said.
Regent Trevor Hayes said he was surprised by Reilly’s announcement, and a national search will be conducted for a new chancellor who is dedicated to higher education.
“Thom has done a really good job in the last two years, and I’m sad to see him go,” Hayes said. “He helped us crystallize our needs into those five goals. The ideas were always there, but he really helped us focus.”