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KATEHI COMES TO CAMPUS: Chancellor-designate mingles with staff, faculty

By Clifton B. Parker on May 15, 2009 in University

Dinner with the faculty leadership. Breakfast with the provost. A walk across campus with student leaders. A luncheon meeting with the UC Davis Foundation Board. A reception with the campus community. Box seats for the UC Davis Centennial production of Oklahoma! at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts

Just a regular couple of days in the life of the chancellor.

The new chancellor: Linda Katehi, who arrived on campus from San Francisco the afternoon of May 7, just hours after the Board of Regents confirmed her appointment.

The next morning, addressing an audience of some 350 faculty, staff and students in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall, Katehi said: “I’m very proud and very excited to be part of an institution that has had such a profound impact not only on the creation of knowledge but also on policies that will also eventually determine the way we live.”

UC Davis, she said, “can change the world through scholarship, innovation and education … by taking chances, discovering the unknown and looking toward the future.”

'Could have gone anywhere'

Regent Russell Gould, who served on the search committee that snagged Katehi, told the Jackson Hall audience: “Linda is one of those people who could have probably gone anywhere in the academic world and been welcomed.

“She chose to come to UC Davis and be part of this community. We should be extremely proud of that,” said Gould, who is the incoming chair of the Board of Regents.

Katehi is leaving the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she has served as provost and vice chancellor of Academic Affairs since 2006. In coming to UC Davis, she is returning to the UC system — having earned master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from UCLA.

She enrolled at UCLA in 1979, coming from her native Greece.

Outgoing Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, in remarks during the welcome reception, acknowledged an academic in the audience “who convinced her to come to the United States.”

Mentors join welcome ceremony

Nick G. Alexopoulos met Katehi more than 30 years ago at the National Technical University of Athens. Alexopoulos was a professor at UCLA at the time, on sabbatical at the Athens university, and Katehi was an undergraduate there.

“I spotted what I thought was a great talent,” Alexopoulos said. But, he added, she was not interested in leaving Greece, being an only child, with her parents to think of, and a boyfriend, too (Spyros Tseregounis, who would become her husband).

Two years later, Katehi gave Alexopoulos a call. She was ready to come to UCLA, where he would mentor her in her master’s and doctoral programs.

“She’s exceptional,” said Alexopoulos, who eventually left UCLA for UC Irvine, serving as dean of the engineering school from 1997 until his retirement last year.

Alexopoulos sat in Jackson Hall with UC Davis’ N.C. Luhmann Jr., Distinguished Professor in the Department of Applied Science, who served on Katehi’s dissertation committee at UCLA. He told The Davis Enterprise: “I was selfish-happy (to learn Katehi would be coming to UC Davis). I couldn’t believe we’d get someone like that, quite frankly. What people said was correct, she could have gone anywhere.”

'Premier institution, vibrant future'

Katehi said she and her husband left California for the Midwest 25 years ago in search of a challenge.

She started her academic career at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She stayed there for 18 years, becoming associate dean for Academic Affairs and Graduate Education in the College of Engineering.

Subsequently, from 2002 to 2006, she served as dean of engineering at Purdue, where she launched an ambitious program to heighten the engineering school’s national distinction.

Katehi went from Purdue to the provost’s office at Illinois.

“Today, 25 years later, we’re coming back (to California) with an even greater challenge and a fabulous opportunity to lead a premier institution into a vibrant future.

“With great confidence, I spoke with a lot of colleagues around the U.S., and the message that I received from them was very consistent: UC Davis is a university with a great past and an even greater future — a university at the forefront of scholarly inquiry, of scientific discovery and technological innovation.

“The work of this university is very broad in scope, both in educational programs and research, as well as engagement, and has an impact on issues which are critical to the society and on our understanding of the world around us.”

Interdisciplinary, collaborative

She highlighted UC Davis’ role in a growing culture of interdisciplinary work and collaboration, “trends that I’m convinced will come to define academia as we move forward into this century.”

Katehi recognized the strong connection between the Davis campus and the Davis community, and said she is confident that this relationship “will not only be sustained during my time as the chancellor but it will be enhanced and expanded.”

She said she is eager to learn from the community of Davis and the university’s partners in industry, and from alumni, faculty, staff and students — to learn of their aspirations and transform them into “a compelling future for the institution, by building on its strengths and traditions.”

Katehi said she is committed to supporting an environment “where every member of the community feels inspired to participate and contribute, where results matter, where excellence is recognized, where risk-taking is encouraged, where collaboration is celebrated, and where progress is made deliberately and vigorously.”


Regents confirm Katehi for UC Davis, Desmond-Hellmann for UCSF.

Video from the regents meeting: (click on “First impressions”).

Video from the welcome ceremony: (click on “Katehi's campus welcome”).

Quotes and more about Katehi's visit to campus.





Media contact(s)

Clifton B. Parker, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,