The University Record, January 21, 1998
By Lisa Baker
President Lee C. Bollinger announced last week that he is eliminating the Office of the Secretary of the University and merging its functions with those of the Office of the Vice President for University Relations. This action reflects Bollinger's earlier commitment to streamline the University's administration.
Bollinger's recommendation was approved by the Board of Regents at its meeting last week.
Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations, will assume the additional responsibilities of secretary of the University. Roberta Palmer, who has served as secretary since 1995, will become a special adviser to the president until June 30, 1998.
Bollinger's restructuring returns the University to an earlier administrative model. Richard L. Kennedy served as both secretary and vice president for government relations from 1970 until 1994.
Following Kennedy's retirement in 1994, President James J. Duderstadt shifted government relations duties to Harrison and created a separate executive officer position of secretary of the University.
The secretary of the University acts as the administrator for matters coming before the Board of Regents, and provides administrative support for the Board. In addition, the secretary oversees a number of University functions and responsibilities on behalf of the Board.
The secretary's office is responsible for maintaining and disseminating official records of all Board actions, organizing Regents' meetings and serving as a liaison between the Board of Regents and the University community.
"Roberta Palmer has been a valued member of the University community for many years," Bollinger said in making the announcement. "She worked for 11 years in governmental relations with Dick Kennedy before leaving in 1988 to become vice president for governmental affairs at Wayne State University. She returned to the University in 1995 as secretary.
"We are very grateful to her for helping the University during a difficult transition period between two presidencies. But now that we have established a new and stable administration, I believe it is time to return to our earlier structure. I believe we can effectively and efficiently„and with less expense„combine the two functions in one position.
"I have asked Roberta to stay on as special adviser to me while we merge the two offices. This should make for a smooth transition," Bollinger added.
Palmer said, "When I was recruited back to the University as secretary in 1995, I welcomed the opportunity of serving the University in this new role. I am gratified to have contributed my part to the challenging presidential search process and the Medical Center restructuring. Over the next few months I will work to ensure that there is a smooth transition as we merge the two offices."
"I have worked closely with the Board of Regents throughout my tenure here at Michigan, and I look forward to working with them in a more formal relationship," Harrison said. "I will have to restructure my own office in order to take on these new responsibilities, but with some thought I believe we can find a way to make this work effectively."
As vice president for university relations and secretary of the University, Harrison oversees state and federal government relations and public affairs activities, including the offices of News and Information Services, Marketing Communications, Michigan Radio, University and Development Events, Executive Communications, Freedom of Information and the Secretary's Office.
Harrison joined the University in 1989 as executive director for university relations. He was named vice president in 1993.
Harrison holds three degrees in English. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Trinity College, a master of arts degree from the U-M and a doctorate from the University of California, Davis.
Harrison is an adjunct associate professor of English. Each year he teaches an undergraduate course in American literature; this term his course is on the literature of the American South.