Board of Regent’s loses a chair

regent-robinsonHARTFORD — In a move that apparently surprised many, Lewis Robinson dropped off a letter of resignation Thursday morning as chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. In a two-page letter sent to Gov. Dannel Malloy, Robinson said it was the appropriate time for him to step down and let others move the system to the next stage.

Robinson was appointed as chair of the new board by the governor and has overseen a tumuluous two-year tenure that included the resignation of the system’s first president, Robert Kennedy, in an unauthorize pay-raise scandal for top system staffers last October.

Just last month, the system hired its second permanent president, Gregory W. Gray who has the task of making the system of 17 community colleges and state universities work well and together. He will do so in a climate of dropping enrollment, rising tuition and the feeling among some that the new system – although bigger – is a second class citizen compared to the University of Connecticut. UConn is the only state higher education institution that is not part of the regents.

A majority of the 19-member board is appointed by the governor, as is the chairman. In Robinson’s absence, Yvette Melendez, the board vice-chair will serve as acting chair, according to system officials. It is unclear when Malloy will pick a new chair.

Robinson could not be reached for comment.

 In response to the resignation, Malloy thanked Robinson for the “dignity, professionalism and compassion that you brought to the role of chair — a combination of traits that set a positive tone in what undoubtedly a time of transformative change.”

State Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a ranking member of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said the resignation came as a surprise. “Although nothing in this system surprises me any more,” she said, referring the constant upheavel that has occured in the two years the system has been in place.

 Boucher called Robinson a “lovely person, a gentleman” who did not like to micromanage. Gray’s job, she added, becomes that much harder with Robinson’s departure.

Gray, in a prepared statement, said he enjoyed getting to know Robinson as an individual during the last few months and greatly appreciated his insight and wisdom in his role as chairman.

 “Personally, I am disappointed to lose his leadership, but I understand and respect his decision, and with all good organizations, we have a succession plan built into our system,” said Gray.

Meléndez, who will assume the role of acting chair,  is vice president of Government and Community Alliances for Hartford Healthcare and Hartford Hospital.

Linda Lambeck