MADISON, Wis. - Tommy Thompson, the longest-serving governor in Wisconsin history and current interim president of the University of Wisconsin System, said Thursday that he was having surgery following a water skiing accident.
"On my way in to surgery this morning," the 79-year-old Thompson posted on Facebook. "Had a little water skiing accident over the weekend and have to have my bicep reattached to the tendon."
UW spokesman Mark Pitsch said that Thompson was "dealing with a little pain and getting it taken care of."
Thompson, a Republican, served as Wisconsin governor from 1987 until 2001, when he left to become U.S. Health and Human Services secretary under then-President George W. Bush. He served four years and then returned to Wisconsin. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2012 but was defeated by then-U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, his first statewide defeat. Thompson was appointed interim UW president in July 2020.
The university's Board of Regents is currently in the process of searching for a permanent president to replace Thompson. That person is expected to be named in early 2022.
Thompson has been an active interim president during the COVID-19 pandemic. He's advocated for testing and vaccinations on campuses. Last year he shot a series of public service announcements wielding a sledge hammer to destroy a variety of objects while urging the campus community to "smash COVID." He's also clashed with Republicans who control the Legislature over COVID-19 mandates.