has been at the UA for 24 years and had planned to retire.

Longtime agriculture Dean Eugene Sander was named interim president of the University of Arizona Saturday.

The Arizona Board of Regents held a special meeting to confirm his appointment.

UA President Robert Shelton resigned Monday and begins his new job as executive director of the Fiesta Bowl on Aug. 1 after a vacation.

Sander has served five university presidents in his 24 years at the UA.

He was interim provost for nine months between the terms of George Davis and Meredith Hay. He is a vice provost in addition to dean.

Other previous leadership roles include two years as vice president for outreach. He is known on campus for his leadership, but when asked about it, he turns the focus to the good work of his team.

"I'm honored that the Arizona Board of Regents has asked me to accept the leadership of the university and continue President Robert Shelton's excellent work," Sander said in a press statement. "The University of Arizona is both a state and national treasure that has an excellent management team. I'm really enthused about joining that team as we move forward this next year."

Faculty leaders said Sander is respected, trusted and well liked in the campus community and around the state.

"It's a good fit," said faculty chairwoman Wanda Howell. "I can't think of anybody else who could get us through the next nine months to a year who could bring stability."

Regents Chairwoman Anne Mariucci said the UA will benefit from Sander's "stature and credibility," his long history of outstanding service and his "wonderful relationships" with the campus community and state lawmakers.

Sander is postponing his retirement, which he intended to begin at the end of the month. He said faculty members he respects asked him to consider stepping up for the job, and he was invited by the regents for an interview on Thursday.

The details of his contract are still being worked out.

A search for a new dean was already under way. The new dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences soon will be named.

In an interview last month, Sander said he was encouraged by the finalists for the dean's job.

"No university is better than the people you bring here," he said.

More than a caretaker or a place holder, Sander is someone to keep the UA's momentum going and build on it while leaders search for a new hire, said Regent Rick Myers.

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Sander said his goal is to keep up the quality of the university in the face of state budget cuts. He also said he worries about having enough financial aid for students and said he will continue the university's commitment to the Arizona Assurance financial aid program.

Myers and Regent Dennis DeConcini will lead the search committee to select Shelton's replacement. The two will meet next week to choose committee members, begin gathering community input, and talk about the overall approach for the search, Myers said.

The new hire, likely to be named next summer, will be the 20th president of the UA.

"We want someone who can continue the rich traditions of the UA in terms of research and quality of education," Myers said.

The ideal candidate would have management know-how, he said, and also be able to help the UA be "an even stronger driver in the positive future of the state."

On StarNet: Becky Pallack writes about all things related to the University of Arizona in her blog at go.azstarnet.com/campuscorrespondent

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 807-8012.