Editor's note: This story was first published in the Modesto Bee on July 16, 1999.
Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the University of California vice provost for academic initiatives who has laid the early foundation for UC Merced, was named the founding chancellor of the campus Thursday.
President Richard Atkinson announced the appointment after a closed session meeting of the UC Board ofRegents. Her position becomes official Aug. 1.
Tomlinson-Keasey, 56, has been Atkinson's special assistant for UC Merced since April 1998. She topped a field of more than 100 applicants during the eight-month search for a chancellor.
Regents set her annual salary at $225,000. Also, the University of California will buy her a home in Merced.
She will oversee the first UC campus to be built since 1965, and the first UC campus in the Central Valley. Tomlinson-Keasey said she will set out right away to establish endowed chairs and recruit senior faculty and administrative staff.
"I envision UC Merced . . . as a model research university and a model community for the fast growing and long underserved valley," Tomlinson-Keasey said.
Regents praised Tomlinson-Keasey's enthusiasm for working with the Merced community, her experience as a former UC faculty member and administrator, and her promotion of such projects as the Sierra Nevada Research Institute, a partnership among the emerging UC Merced and three national parks.
"I think she's done wonderful work in Merced," said Regent Odessa Johnson of Modesto. "She has helped frame what this prestigious college is going to look like, and she has good rapport with the (citizens) committee. Here we have someone who can move ahead today and doesn't require a huge learning curve."
Her appointment drew a hearty round of applause from a contingent of boosters from the Merced area. They had boarded a Bay Area-bound bus at 4:30 a.m. to be in the audience when the announcement was made.
"Having a chancellor aboard really steps up the momentum," said Bob Carpenter, a Merced businessman and former chairman of the UC Merced Citizens Committee. "To me the importance of this is that it gives Merced a place at the table alongside the chancellors of nine other campuses."
Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, described the appointment as historic. "Carol has been a true champion for the campus in Merced," he said. "She's the one person who cares about this project as much as I do."
UC Merced is scheduled to open in 2005 with 1,000 students. Enrollment is expected to grow by 800 students each year. It has been touted as the nation's first research university planned for the 21st century. Its academic program will center on new technology.
The land on which the university and surrounding community will be built -- 11,000 acres of range land just northeast of Merced -- is vacant.
"There are no students, no staff, no parking, no football team, no medical center," Tomlinson-Keasey said, drawing laughs from an audience filled with representatives from the other nine UC campuses. "But the challenges presented there are just as complex."
One of the greatest challenges is funding. The California Post-secondary Education Commission estimates building costs alone will be at least $250 million, to allow the campus to open on time.
Cardoza said the state has committed about $100 million to UC Merced, including $55 million in school construction bonds and annual state appropriations, plus $20 million or so in federal money for roads and other infrastructure.
"UC Merced is here"
But there are several other signs that "UC Merced is here," Tomlinson-Keasey said. "If you look at the systemwide phone book, you'll find UC Merced on the cover. We have the (lapel) pin with 10 stars, and we have our own banner. Plus we have a chancellor, a vice chancellor for advancement; we have a team of people who have been working with us since the site selection. So we're ready to move forward."
Raising funds for research and scholarship got under way in June with the hiring of Jim Erickson as vice chancellor for university advancement. Erickson held a similar position for 13 years at UC Riverside.
Tomlinson-Keasey has served since 1997 as the UC's first systemwide vice provost for academic initiatives. Before that, she was an administrator at UC Davis, first as vice provost for faculty relations, then as dean of the College of Letters and Science, and finally as vice provost for academic planning and personnel.
She was a psychology professor at UC Riverside from 1980 to 1992, where she was honored with the distinguished teaching award.
As the UC system's vice provost for academic initiatives, Tomlinson-Keasey oversaw creation of the California Digital Library and establishment of part-time professional degree programs. She also coordinated planning for UC's academic programs in Washington, D.C.
She lives in Winters, a farming town near Davis, with her husband, Blake Keasey, a professor of developmental psychology at UC Davis. They have two grown children and one grandchild.