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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The University of Oregon's incoming president is chowing down in Eugene this week and getting ready to chew the fat in Salem.
Preparing for a July 1 start date, Michael Schill threw a dinner for faculty members, ate ice cream sandwiches on the lawn with staff members and supped with students, the Eugene Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1Pjpftj) reported.
He approached new people with arms out, took them in with steady blue eyes, and said, "Hi guys, how are you?"
Next up for the 56-year-old from the University of Chicago law school is a meeting Friday with Gov. Kate Brown. He said he hopes to talk to legislators about "a renewed partnership between the state and the university."
The university and other Oregon schools are dismayed by a steady decline in state taxpayer funds for higher education in recent decades, leading to steep increases in tuition charges and angry objections from students.
Schill takes over after an unsettled period. The university's two previous presidents served only two years each, one fired, the other resigning abruptly, with interim presidents leading the school for extended times.
Meanwhile, the university's governance has passed from a statewide commission to a board of trustees for just the university that prominent and wealthy alums sought.
Schill, dean of the law school in Chicago, is the son of a nurse and a factory worker and is the first in his family to attend college. He went to Princeton and Yale.
"It's very important to me as a first-generation (college) student that this school be accessible to students of all economic stripes," he said.
The university has launched a $2 billion fundraising drive that Schill will manage. He said he doesn't view that work "as going to people with a hat in my hand."
"You need to get to know people, figure out what makes them passionate, and then you basically make a match between the needs of the university — which are many — and the passions of the donor," he said. "In another life I might have been a matchmaker, but in my life I'm a fundraiser as well as a president."
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com
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