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Commerce chief leaving for University of Wisconsin post

Mar. 19, 2013 - 11:10AM   |  
By AAMER MADHANI   |   Comments

President Obama’s acting Commerce secretary is heading to the University of Wisconsin.

A special committee of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents picked Rebecca Blank, who has been serving as acting Commerce secretary for the last nine months, to be the school’s next chancellor from a field of four finalists, the university announced Monday.

“I am both delighted and honored to receive this offer and delighted and honored to accept it,” Blank said. “Wisconsin is a world-class university, and the opportunity to provide leadership with first-class groups of staff and faculty is exciting.”

Blank took the helm at Commerce on June 9 after then Commerce Secretary John Bryson took a medical leave after suffering a seizure while involved in a hit-and-run traffic incident. Bryson resigned from Commerce on June 21, and Blank has led the department since.

Blank joined the Obama administration in June 2009 as undersecretary of Commerce for economic affairs and was elevated to deputy secretary in November 2010.

The Board of Regents is scheduled to vote on the recommendation April 5. If confirmed, Blank said she wants to start in late July. In a statement, Obama said that Blank will remain at the department until summer, but it remains unclear when he will nominate his next Commerce secretary.

Blank, who grew up in Minnesota, was a visiting fellow at Wisconsin’s Department of Economics and Institute for Research on Poverty in 1985. She’s held teaching positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Northwestern University and the University of Michigan.

At Michigan, she served as dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy from 1999-2007.

Blank said during a recent a visit to the Wisconsin campus that she had tired of the political battles in Washington, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Obama described Blank as “a tireless advocate for American businesses.”

“Over the past four years I have asked Becky to take on several roles at the Department of Commerce, and in each one she has distinguished herself as a steady leader and a vital member of my economic team,” Obama said.

Aamer Madhani reports for USA Today.

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