UC president forced to face major challenges
August 26, 2007 6:00 AM
The Record's Aug. 20 editorial ("A man for the wrong season") might well be correct.
But it understated the challenges Robert Dynes faced when he became president of the University of California on Oct. 1, 2003.
Dynes became president just before Arnold Schwarzenegger unseated Gov. Gray Davis in a recall election and a few days after John Moores, a member of the UC Board of Regents, launched an attack on admission policies at the Berkeley campus.
Outgoing President Richard Atkinson publicly challenged the use of the Scholastic Aptitude Test in admissions.
The U.S. Department of Energy was about to put the university's three (not two) national laboratory contracts out to bid for the first time.
There was uncertainty as to whether the Legislature would fund the UC Merced campus 23 months before its scheduled opening.
Recruitment was under way for new chancellors for the Berkeley, San Diego and Santa Cruz campuses.
As a first-year regent at the time, I was aware of these issues and many more that faced Dynes when he left UC San Diego for the president's office in Oakland.
State budget issues consumed much of the leadership's attention and energy, compounded by the midstream change of governors.
The size and complexity of the UC system are unique to higher education.
The experience with restructuring management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory signaled a major change in how the institution would be governed.
Structural changes in the president's office are under way.
Blending leadership of academia and research with business systems and personnel management no longer will work in an institution with 10 campuses, 200,000 students and 120,000 employees.
Perhaps it was too much to ask that an accomplished physicist such as Dynes excel in all of these roles.
In two years of observing Dynes, I was struck by his vision and tenacity in the face of daunting challenges.
In numerous meetings with UC alumni from around the state and nation, he was receptive to concerns but inspiring in his belief in the university's ability to meet its responsibilities to educate students and provide world-class research.
His legacy will emerge as many of the initiatives he launched gain traction over time.
Mark F. Ornellas