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Columbia U. veteran named dean of UC Davis Extension

By Dave Jones on September 23, 2014 in University News

Paul M. McNeil, a veteran administrator in the School of Continuing Education at Columbia University, has been named the new dean of UC Davis Extension.

Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter made the announcement, closing out the national search for a successor to Dennis Pendleton, who will step down in November after nearly 14 years as extension dean.


“I am humbled and truly honored to succeed Dean Pendleton,” McNeil said. “The opportunities awaiting UC Davis Extension are stunning. I am excited by the prospect of working with such remarkable colleagues to innovate by building coalitions across disciplinary boundaries and functional teams.”

Effective Dec. 1, McNeil assumes responsibility for an extension program of continuing and professional education that began in 1960 and which today serves some 60,000 people annually in the Sacramento region and far beyond: in all 50 states and nearly 90 countries. The UC Davis Extension catalog comprises more than 3,600 courses, and includes certificates and master’s degrees programs.

Katehi said: “UC Davis Extension has been changing lives for more than five decades, and we are grateful to Dennis for his leadership over the last 14 years.

“Running this global program requires an experienced and dedicated educator, so we are fortunate to have Paul joining UC Davis.”

Hexter described UC Davis Extension as “a crucial component of our efforts as a university dedicated to public service, with programs that reach tens of thousands of individuals worldwide.”

“Paul brings a unique set of skills and experiences with him, and we look forward to the ways that he will help UC Davis Extension realize exciting new opportunities, bearing the UC Davis banner to yet more parts of the globe.”

At Columbia, in New York City, the School of Continuing Education administers 13 professional Master of Science degree programs; post baccalaureate study in more than 50 subject areas; American language programs; summer programs for university students and high school students; and auditing programs for  lifelong learners and others, providing them access to arts and science lectures.

The school enrolls about 8,000 students annually from across the United States and around the world, and serves hundreds of others who are enrolled in Columbia’s other schools, via summer sessions and study abroad, and through the school’s professionally oriented courses.

McNeil began work at Columbia in 1986 in the School of General Studies’ Division of Special Programs, which grew into the School of Continuing Education, established in 2002. He started as an associate director and progressed to director (1987), associate dean (1997), senior associate dean (2004), vice dean (2008) and senior vice dean (2013).

As senior vice dean, he serves as the chief operating officer and senior policy adviser to the dean; heads academic administration and governance; leads student life, alumni relations and development; and has shared responsibility for the budget ($84 million in revenue and $34 million in expenses).

In his earlier positions, McNeil developed new graduate degree programs in applied professional fields; directed graduate studies; created and directed credit and noncredit programs; oversaw course development and academic affairs for online programs in arts and science; and oversaw the school’s IT infrastructure.

In addition, he created and directed the Summer Program for High School Students; produced ENCORE, a series of cultural programs aimed at the general public; and ultimately directed all noncredit instructional programs and corporate training.

McNeil is a native of New York state; he grew up in dairy country, in central upstate New York, the son of Rose and Daniel McNeil. He did his undergraduate work at Vassar College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts (1980), with general and departmental honors, and election to Phi Beta Kappa. He holds three graduate degrees in literature from Columbia: Master of Arts with honors, M.Phil. with honors and Ph.D.

He taught composition and literature at Columbia (1981-86), the Fashion Institute of Technology (1983-86) and the American College of Greece (1982).

He wrote his doctoral thesis on “The Unforgiving Margin in the Fiction of Christopher Isherwood,” and recently contributed an essay on Isherwood, “A Phone Call by the River,” that will be included in a collection of essays about the late novelist. The volume, The American Isherwood, is due for publication in 2015.

Related story: Economics professor Ann Huff Stevens appointed interim dean of the Graduate School of Management.

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Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,