He remained in this role for sixteen years and is the longest serving president in the University's history. In this role, he led the consolidation of the University's Medical Center and Chicago Circle campuses to form the current University of Illinois at Chicago, now the largest and most comprehensive research university campus in metropolitan Chicago. In Urbana-Champaign, Ikenberry led several major academic initiatives, including the creation of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
Ikenberry led the Universities first major capital campaign and launched a second campaign in the late 1980s to raise in excess a billion dollars. The quality and diversity of the Illinois student body increased significantly during his tenure with his creation of the President's Scholars Program. He retired from the University presidency in 1995, but returned in 2010 to serve as Interim President.
He also served as the 10th President of the American Council on Education. Currently, Dr. Ikenberry serves as President Emeritus for the University, Regent Professor in the College of Education and Principal Investigator of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). In 2008, Ikenberry partnered with George Kuh to create the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).
This Institute was established to monitor and assist institutions as they develop evidence for student learning. The Ikenberry Commons and the Ikenberry Dining hall was named in 2008.