The University Record, March 19, 1996
Womack will step down as U-M's chief financial officer
Farris W. Womack, who has served as chief financial officer for two states and three flagship public universities, will step down as executive vice president and chief financial officer and return to teaching full-time as professor of education, effective Dec. 31.
Womack, 61, has been chief financial officer and professor of education at the U-M since July 1988. During that time he has taught graduate courses in the School of Education on a regular basis.
"Farris Womack has left an indelible mark on the University of Michigan," President James J. Duderstadt says. "It is with a deep sense of regret, appreciation, and understanding that I have accepted his decision to return to teaching. Dr. Womack has provided leadership of the highest caliber both for this institution and for higher education more generally, and he will be sorely missed. Yet I understand his interest in returning to the faculty at this time.
"He is regarded as the leading chief financial officer in higher education today, having served in this role at both the University of North Carolina and the University of Arkansas before coming to Michigan in 1989. During the past eight years, he has led an effort to restructure both the acquisition and management of resources in this University that will leave Michigan in the strongest financial position it has enjoyed at anytime in its long history. Further, he has guided a massive effort to rebuild the campuses of the University, and once again, will step down at a time when the physical environment for our academic programs has never been better.
"Farris has led a complete repositioning of the University's investment portfolio during his tenure as CFO," Duderstadt says. "Under his direction our endowment has grown from $300 million to over $1.6 billion in just eight years. While we have benefited from generous support of our donors and a bull market during this period, most of this growth is a result of Farris' carefully constructed investment strategy that has put us at the forefront of higher education institutions nationally.
"Farris is the person most responsible for the University's sound financial footing today," Duderstadt adds. "Because of his efforts and those of his colleagues, the University of Michigan is the first public university in the country to enjoy an AA1 bond rating from Moody's.
"In addition, he has led the effort to improve the environment on our campuses. He has led the most extensive building program mounted at any time in the history of the University, involving over $1.5 billion of new or renovated facilities on our various campuses. This effort has included relandscaping our campuses and providing for ongoing maintenance of one of the largest physical plants of any university in America. He also has led the University's efforts to improve public safety on our campus. As the executive officer with lead responsibility for the University Hospitals, he has been key in the efforts to restructure our clinical delivery system.
"I am deeply indebted to Farris for his extraordinary leadership and effort and am sorry to see him leave our leadership team. But I look forward to working closely with him in the years ahead as a faculty colleague, since the two of us share a mutual interest in the future of public higher education."
"I'm deeply appreciative of Farris' commitment to remain on board during the transition period," says Homer Neal, vice president for research and interim president designate. "I'm personally grateful that he will remain a member of the executive officer team during this period."
Prior to coming to the U-M, Womack served, at the personal request of the governor, as controller of the State of North Carolina in 1987-88. He was at the same time the vice chancellor for business and finance at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a position he had held since 1983. Prior to that he had been director of the Department of Finance and Administration for the State of Arkansas in 1981-83. Previously he had been executive vice president of the University of Arkansas, in 1979 to 1981. In the 1970s he had held a variety of positions at the University of Arkansas, rising to vice president for administration from 1977 to 1979.
Womack received his bachelor's degree in history, English, and political science from the University of Central Arkansas in 1955, and master's and doctoral degrees in administration from the University of Arkansas in 1958 and 1972. He has been a professor of education at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Arkansas.
"I have tremendous respect for the job Farris has done at the University of Michigan and for him as a person," says George J. Brewer, professor of human genetics and chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, the executive committee of the University's faculty senate. "He has been a Rock of Gibraltar in maintaining order in the business and finance areas of the University."
"Farris is best known for his financial acumen," says Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations, who has served with Womack since 1989, "but I have always been impressed by his innovations in management and leadership. He has an incredible knack for getting the best out of people. He has been the driving force behind M-Quality, the University's program of customer-oriented improvement. And the Business and Finance Seminar and the Management Institute he organized are the most impressive professional development programs I have ever encountered. All of us on the executive officer team have learned a lot from Farris."
In moving full-time to teaching, Womack will join the School of Education's nationally recognized program in post-secondary education.
"We're looking forward to having Farris join our faculty," says Cecil Miskel, dean of the School of Education. "His extensive experience and knowledge will be of great help to our students in understanding the finance and policy issues facing higher education."
Farris and Ann Womack live in Ann Arbor Township. Ann has been active in a wide variety of community and University activities, including the Faculty Women's Club, the Thrift Shop, and the Waterman Alumnae Club Town Hall Series.