UC Merced vice chancellor leaving to start own company

December 2, 2009 

John Garamendi Jr., UC Merced administrator


John Garamendi Jr., vice chancellor for university relations at UC Merced, announced Tuesday evening that he would resign from the post to start his own business.

The news was spread through an e-mail from Chancellor Steve Kang to students and staff at the university.

Garamendi, 39, is leaving the university to start his own consulting business that will specialize in government and education, he said. The business will be based in Walnut Grove, a Sacramento suburb where he lives with his family.

"Considering his success as chief fundraiser at UC Merced since June 2005 and experience with helping to build the first research university of the 21st century, I am certain of John's future success," Kang wrote.

Garamendi will continue to work on campus until no later than April 1, 2010. He will also continue to serve as corporate vice president and executive director of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees until that time.

Garamendi was appointed as vice chancellor for university relations in May 2005, while the campus was still being built. Tuesday evening, minutes after the announcement, he fondly recalled his first interview at the campus when he was "knee-deep in mud," he said.

He referred to the job as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" and said he was proud of the campus' accomplishments to date.

"I love being a part of this campus. I've loved watching it grow. There will never be anything similar to opening a new UC Merced campus," he said. "It's all just wonderful, wonderful memories."

Kang's note said a plan to fill the vacancy would be announced in the near future. Garamendi said he did not know whether he'd have a role in that search.

Garamendi is the third vice chancellor for university relations since 1999.

He started his UC-based working career 19 years ago, securing the rec hall at the Berkeley campus at the end of each night.

Immediately before he came to Merced, he served as director of corporate and foundation relations at UC Berkeley.

He's also worked at UC Davis and the UC Office of the President.

At Merced, he was responsible for the areas of development, university relations, governmental relations, communications, the UC Merced Foundation and its Board of Trustees, alumni affairs, and special events and protocol.

Last year, the college received $8.3 million in new cash donations and pledges.

A native of the Central Valley, Garamendi graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in history, and earned his MBA at California State University, East Bay. He has also served in the United States Peace Corps and Army Reserve.

Starting his own business has been a hope since he received his business degree several years ago, Garamendi said.

Still, "it's very hard to leave the arms of an institution you've loved for so long. If you poke me, I'll still bleed blue and gold," he said.

Reporter Danielle E. Gaines can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dgaines@mercedsun-star.com.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said Garamendi had served as the third vice chancellor in the school's five year history. There have been three chancellors since 1999, before the campus opened.