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UConn interim president Dr. Andrew Agwunobi will leave for private sector. University begins immediate search for new president.

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 1/14/2022 Alex Putterman, Hartford Courant
Radenka Maric is the vice president of research at UConn. She will serve as interim president of UConn while the university searches for a permanent leader. © Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS Radenka Maric is the vice president of research at UConn. She will serve as interim president of UConn while the university searches for a permanent leader.

Interim UConn President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi is quitting to take a top job at the health insurance company Humana, the university announced Friday.

UConn said the school will immediately begin a search with the goal of hiring a permanent president by this fall.

Agwunobi, also the highly-regarded CEO of UConn Health since 2014, has served as interim president since last July after the abrupt resignation of Thomas Katsouleas.

In a letter to the UConn community, Agwunobi called the decision to leave “extremely difficult.”

“This is an amazing university and special place,” he wrote. “It has truly been an honor to serve as a leader here and to work with all of you.”

Agwunobi will leave UConn on Feb. 20 and begin the following day in Louisville at health care giant Humana, Inc., where he will serve as president of the company’s Home Solutions business.

UConn’s Board of Trustees will meet Jan. 26 to appoint Radenka Maric, the school’s vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, as the new interim president, the school said. Dr. Bruce Liang, dean of the UConn School of Medicine, will take over as interim CEO of UConn Health.

In a separate letter to the UConn community, Board of Trustees Chair Daniel Toscano promised a national search for a new president, with hopes of hiring someone by next fall.

“This continues to be a period of transition for UConn, as we knew it would be, and we look ahead to a successful search process at this critical time in UConn’s and Connecticut’s history,” wrote Toscano, who will lead the search committee.

UConn must now find it’s third leader in less than a year. UConn Health, meanwhile, has struggled to compete with the larger hospital systems that dominate greater Hartford and the state in general.

“Dr. Agwunobi has helped to steer UConn and UConn Health through unprecedented times, all while overseeing significant growth in research and enrollment,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement released Friday morning.

“I have immense confidence in the UConn Board of Trustees and Chairman Dan Toscano as they search for a permanent replacement to lead UConn into the future. Meanwhile, UConn is incredibly fortunate to have the talented and unflappable Dr. Radenka Maric to steer UConn on an interim basis.”

© Mark Mirko/Hartford Courant/TNS

Maric, who was born in Yugoslavia and educated in Japan, came to UConn in 2010 as a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. In addition to her academic and administrative pursuits, she is also a painter, pianist, clothier and amateur chef.

Since 2017, Maric has been the vice president for research, where she oversees the school’s $375 million research portfolio. Among other achievements, she is an internationally recognized expert in batteries and fuel cells. Under her leadership, research funding at UConn has grown dramatically over the last five years.

“With the support of our state government, communities, and industry we are going to continue to keep our students at the center of who we are and prepare them not just for good jobs but for leadership roles in addressing societal challenges,” Maric said in a statement released by UConn.

“I’m asking all of my colleagues to join me in working toward the continued success of this institution, and in collaboratively finding creative ways during this uncertain time to continue to support our students, communities, and the state as we strive for excellence,” Maric said.

Liang has served as dean of UConn’s School of Medicine since 2015.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with Radenka Maric in her interim role, as well as with our Board of Directors in the months ahead,” he said.

Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard said Agwunobi would join the company’s top management team. Humana is one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies. In 2015 Aetna failed in a bid to acquire Humana after a court ruling against the proposed merger.

“Andy is just the person we need for this critical Humana role leading our Home Solutions business,” Broussard said in a statement. “He has a real passion for care in the home. He has been responsible for a home health care organization as part of an integrated system. He has extensive operational experience with for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and he’s a doctor — he understands the value of care in the home, why seniors want more of it, and our vision at Humana for making it much easier for people to get the care they need at home.”

Alex Putterman can be reached at aputterman@courant.com.

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