Temple University appointed a new president on Tuesday who pledged to explore fundraising and financial aid strategies as well as heighten the school's profile through its recent jump to the Big East athletic conference.
Neil Theobald, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Indiana University, will officially take the helm of the Philadelphia institution Jan. 1.
"This is absolutely the dream job I've always wanted to have," he said after the unanimous vote by Temple trustees.
Theobald has a five-year contract that will pay him a base salary of $450,000 annually. He becomes the 10th president of Temple and replaces Ann Weaver Hart, who left to lead the University of Arizona. He hails from a public system that serves about 110,000 students — nearly three times the total enrollment at Temple.
Indiana officials praised Theobald's nearly 20 years of service to their school, saying his fiscal expertise helped guide both university officials struggling with declining state support as well as students trying to manage their debt load.
"Neil is one of the leading minds in educational finance and educational policy in the United States," Indiana President Michael McRobbie said in a prepared statement. "I have no doubt that Neil will make a superb college president."
Temple trustees chairman Patrick O'Connor noted Theobald's roots as a first-generation college student and son of an Illinois factory worker. Theobald wants to provide the same educational opportunity to Temple students, many of whom have similar backgrounds, O'Connor said.
"He wants to ensure that students have access to an education that is first-class and affordable," said O'Connor.
As one of four state-related universities, Temple receives public funds but is not under direct state control. It's one of the largest schools in Pennsylvania, with about 39,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
About 10 percent of Temple's nearly $1.2 billion budget comes from the state. The university also has a $1.4 billion hospital and health system that now falls under Theobald's purview.
After his appointment, Theobald said Temple needs a financial model that is less dependent on tuition and state aid. He talked about fundraising strategies and said Temple's presence in the Big East will give the school a higher profile among both prospective students and alumni.
Theobald has been in Philadelphia for the past few days visiting the campus and holding meet-and-greets with faculty, staff and students. Faculty union president Arthur Hochner said a brief encounter Tuesday gave him a favorable impression of the president-elect.
"He believes in a transparent budget, said that he was willing to talk with the union about issues," Hochner said. "He had union members in his family, so that's a good sign."
Julian Hamer, a rising senior and member of Temple's student government, said she liked Theobald's commitment to making the university affordable. Tuition is currently $13,006 a year for state residents.
"He had a lot of great ideas," Hamer said.
Temple had hoped to have Hart's successor in place by the time she left on June 30. But in May, after months of fruitless searching, trustees instead appointed Provost Richard Englert as interim president beginning July 1. He will continue serving in that role until Dec. 31.