UC Merced appoints a new provost

Science foundation official to fill post

08/16/2012 11:00 PM

08/16/2012 11:24 PM

UC Merced has appointed an official from the National Science Foundation to fill the role as second-in-command at the university.

Thomas W. Peterson, 62, assistant director for engineering at the national foundation, will assume his responsibilities as provost and executive vice chancellor on Dec. 3, according to university officials.

His annual salary will be $261,837. The announcement of his appointment was made Wednesday.

Peterson's compensation package includes an annual vehicle allowance of $8,916, a relocation allowance of 25 percent of his annual base salary, which will be made in four equal annual payments over a four-year period, a temporary housing allowance and two house-hunting trips, according to officials.

Peterson, who was not available for comment on Thursday, will be reimbursed for visits to the campus before taking his position. He will replace Keith Alley, 68, who held the provost position since 2006.

Alley, whose annual salary was $240,500, retired on June 30. Sam Traina is filling the provost position on an interim basis. Traina is the university's vice chancellor for research.

UC Merced worked with executive search firm Isaacson Miller Inc. According to the search agreement, the cost was not to exceed $108,073.

The hiring was an open process, said Patti Waid, spokeswoman for UC Merced. All the candidates visited campus and met with several groups.

The university needed someone with an understanding of finances and its relationship with academic priorities, budgeting and fundraising, Waid said. "He fit the bill for all," she said.

Peterson has led the Directorate for Engineering at the National Science Foundation. The division has a budget of about $825 million and provides research, seeks to advance technology and integrates those activities with the education of new engineers, according to UC Merced.

Prior to being appointed to his position at the national foundation, Peterson was the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Arizona. He was able to keep his faculty position at the University of Arizona during his time at the foundation.

He holds a bachelor's degree from Tufts University, a master's degree from the University of Arizona, and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He received all three degrees in chemical engineering.

UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland wasn't available to comment on Thursday, but in a message that she sent out to the campus community, she said the university will benefit "enormously" from Peterson.

"He is an effective and seasoned leader, a successful fundraiser and a skilled collaborator whose talents will serve our campus extremely well as we move into the next major phase of our development," she wrote in her message.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482, or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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