Editor's note: This story was first published in the Modesto Bee on March 9, 2006.
Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who has been chancellor at the University of California at Merced since 1999 -- before the school was built -- announced Wednesday she is resigning her position as of Aug. 31.
"These have been very intense, demanding years in which family priorities move down the list, sometimes too far," she said during a news conference on campus Wednesday. Though she was treated a few years ago for breast cancer, she said she is in good health. She said she's looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Blake Keasey, and her children and grandchildren.
But Tomlinson-Keasey won't leave UC Merced, to which she said she is "committed, heart and soul." She'll take a sabbatical, during which she plans to work with Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Karen Merritt, director of academic planning for the UC Office of the President, on a book chronicling what it took to open the first new UC campus in 40 years.
That effort included a contentious environmental approval process and shifting of the site after environmental groups sued to stop construction because of threats the project posed to endangered species.
Bob Rucker, then-state Sen. Dick Monteith's chief of staff, worked with the university through the process.
"We kept running up against roadblocks and she kept figuring out ways to move it forward," he said Wednesday. "If it wasn't for her, there wouldn't be a UC Merced and I'm really sad to hear that she's leaving."
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, agreed. "Nobody will ever know the battles we went through to make this work," he said. Of her resignation, he said, "It's simply a tragedy. No one will miss her more than I."
After she finishes her book, Tomlinson-Keasey plans to return to the campus as a professor in fall 2007, teaching psychology.
Students and many staff members found out about the chancellor's departure through a campuswide message sent about the same time she made her public announcement Wednesday.
"I guess it will bring a lot of changes," said Uday Bali, 19, of Modesto. He began last fall with the inaugural class, and said he has enjoyed his first year at UC Merced even more than he expected. "She said she's leaving to spend time with her family, and I respect that."
Gary Phelps, 18, of Merced, said the chancellor's announcement was "100 percent unexpected."
However, he wasn't upset, and said he's comfortable with the school.
"I think she has built a foundation here," Phelps said. "She has a lot of people's respect. She has done great things and will continue doing great things."
SHE RAN THE SCHOOL BEFORE IT HAD A HOME
Tomlinson-Keasey is the UC's first female founding chancellor. She oversaw the newest campus from site searches that included more than 80 locations through construction and the hiring of faculty and staff, and to what she called her proudest moment: opening day last year.
Over Labor Day weekend, the campus welcomed its first 900 students, more than 600 of whom took up residence in its dorms. The chancellor said last summer she was most excited about seeing students filling the classrooms, using the library and walking the halls.
And it's the people she'll miss most when she leaves her job, she said Wednesday.
"We have a great team," Tomlinson-Keasey said. "I know the faculty because I hired them. A chancellor coming in will not know them the way I do." She praised faculty, staff and students, whom she called vibrant, interested and interesting, smart and committed.
UC President Robert C. Dynes will start conducting the search for the next UC Merced chancellor; Tomlinson-Keasey said the process will be "expeditious."
"We will greatly miss her leadership at the campus, but she can be secure in the knowledge that she has made a lasting contribution to the valley and to California," Dynes said.
The new chancellor should be someone with academic and administrative experience, Tomlinson-Keasey said, who can bring together the different factions with an interest in the campus. The successful candidate also should be someone with limitless energy.
"You go all day, every day," she said. "That's never in the job description."
No interim leader has been appointed because officials are hoping to have a permanent replacement by Tomlinson-Keasey's Aug. 31 departure date. That also means Tomlinson-Keasey will get to take part in the school's next big moment: She plans to preside over its first commencement ceremony -- a graduating class of two students -- on May 11.
Tomlinson-Keasey choked up describing the decision to step down.
"There's not ever a good time for this," she said, "but this is as good a time as any."
Her announcement came a little less than a week after the university said it's working to put together a medical school, which was one of her goals. But the multiyear project, she said, will need someone who can commit time and effort to it.
She said she will continue promoting the medical school, and also will see through this summer's 60-day public comment
period on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' report dealing with growth plans that include 910 acres east of the campus -- an area that has to be examined for endangered species and other environmental concerns.
Imagining Sept. 1, she said she and her husband will have to take some time to move out of the chancellor's house and into new digs. She said she might write from home or at UC Berkeley, and will spend time in the UC system's archives researching her book.
Once it's finished and she returns as a faculty member, Tomlinson-Keasey said, she looks forward to working with the school's new leader.
School officials have not determined what her faculty salary will be; as chancellor she makes $260,000 per year.
"It'll be fun to sit across the table from a new chancellor and ask questions," she said.
BIG SHOES TO FILL
Friend and colleague Ben Duran, president of Merced College, said he was surprised by the chancellor's resignation when she called him Tuesday to let him know.
"I'm dumbfounded," he said. "I would never have expected this." Duran was on the search committee that recommended Tomlinson-Keasey for the job.
UC Merced Provost David Ashley said the chancellor's shoes will be hard to fill.
"She has an enormous amount of community support -- a broad base that goes beyond what chancellors normally have," he said. "The next chancellor will have a challenge building that."
Bee staff writer Lorena Anderson can be reached at 667-1227or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of California Office of the President will begin a nationwide search for a replacement for UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey immediately. Spokesman Michael Reese said President Robert C. Dynes likely will get hundreds of candidates, but wants to have a recommendation by the July meeting of the UC Board of Regents.
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:
Step 1: Form a search committee with faculty, staff and students.
Step 2: The committee will meet with other faculty, staff and students, as well as community groups and members of the UC Merced Foundation, to get a better understanding of what kind of person should replace the chancellor. Reese emphasized the importance of this step, because it will set the tone for the search.
Step 3: Regents will hire an independent search firm to identify candidates from all over the country.
Step 4: Faculty will help the committee compare the candidates and winnow the list to five to seven names.
Step 5: The committee will interview candidates.
Step 6: The search committee will recommend its top few candidates. Dynes will select his finalist, then forward the name to the UC regents for approval.
--------------------TOMLINSON-KEASEY AT A GLANCE--------------------
* AGE: 63
* EDUCATION: Earned her bachelor's degree in political science in 1964 from Pennsylvania State University, a master's degree in psychology in 1966 from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1970.
* PROFESSIONAL: Appointed the founding chancellor of UC Merced, effective Aug. 1, 1999. In 1997, served as UC's first systemwide vice provost for academic initiatives and in April 1998 was named to direct the planning efforts for UC Merced. In the dual role, she served as the leader of new campus development prior to the formal appointment of a chancellor and as the individual responsible for directing the development of new academic programs throughout the UC system. At
UC Davis, served as vice provost for faculty relations from 1992-94, as dean of the college of letters and science from 1994-95, and as vice provost for academic planning and personnel from 1995-1997. She was a professor at UC Riverside from 1980 to 1992, where she was honored with the distinguished teaching award.
Held faculty positions at Rutgers University and the University of Nebraska.
* FAMILY: Married to Blake Keasey, a forensic psychologist; children, Kai Linson Keasey, a mechanical engineer, and Amber Lynn Peters, a marine biologist; grandchildren, Bremen Wolf Keasey, Vari Wolf Keasey and Avery Peters
* AUTHOR: "Child's Eye View: A New Way of Understanding the Development and Behavior of Children," published in 1980, and "Child Development: Psychological, Sociocultural and Biological Factors," 1986. Co-author of "Studying Lives Through Time: Personality and Development," 1993. Author and co-author of numerous articles, including "Women in Atypical Professions: Predictors and Life Outcomes," "My Dirty Little Secret: Women as Clandestine Intellectuals," "Gifted Women's Lives: Aspirations, Achievements and Personal Adjustment," "Emerging Organizations in the Human Mind" and "Developing Our Educational Resources for the 21st Century: Educating the Gifted."
* HOBBIES: Scuba diving, skiing, in-line skating; former pilot and motorcycle owner; likes classical music, and reading spy novels and murder mysteries