Regents Confirm Gary May as Chancellor

Gary S. May enters the UC regents meeting.
Gary S. May enters the Board of Regents meeting this afternoon (Feb. 23), after the board approved his appointment as the chancellor of UC Davis.


Founded in 1908 as the University Farm, UC Davis did not have a chancellor until 1958. The regents had appointed Stanley B. Freeborn as provost in 1952, and changed his title to chancellor in 1958. A year later, the regents declared Davis a general campus and named Emil M. Mrak as the second chancellor. Here is a list of all the UC Davis chancellors and their years of service:

  • Stanley B. Freeborn, 1958-59
  • Emil M. Mrak, 1959-70
  • James H. Meyer, 1970-87
  • Theodore L. Hullar, 1987-94
  • Larry N. Vanderhoef, 1994-2009
  • Linda P.B. Katehi, 2009-16
  • Gary S. May, appointed Feb. 23, 2017

UC Davis has its seventh chancellor, Gary S. May, engineering dean at the Georgia Institute of Technology, confirmed by unanimous vote of the Board of Regents at a special meeting this afternoon (Feb. 23). The meeting took place at UCLA and at other locations by teleconference.

Update: Chancellor-designate Gary S. May visits UC Davis, Feb. 23 and 24.

“I hope that during my tenure as chancellor at Davis we come to accept some of the daily habits, the precepts that I try to apply in my own life, and that’s that every day I want to learn something, I want to help somebody and I want to make the world better — and I hope that’s what we’ll do at Davis,” May told the regents after the vote. He concluded his remarks by saying, “Go Ags!”

The 52-year-old May will take up his new position in Mrak Hall on Aug. 1. Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter has been leading the campus as interim chancellor since last April, and he will continue to do so until May arrives.

In an email message to the campus community after the regents meeting, Hexter said: “On behalf of the entire UC Davis community, I want to extend our deepest congratulations and offer a warm Aggie welcome to Gary S. May, dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech. … I look forward to working with Chancellor-designate May and will do everything I can to make sure his and his family’s transition to UC Davis is a smooth one.”

Gary May
May, pictured in Georgia Tech’s Marcus Nanotechnology Building.

Hexter said he was “deeply honored” to continue on as interim chancellor, at UC President Janet Napolitano’s request. “I could not be more proud of how we have come together as a community after a challenging spring and summer,” Hexter wrote in his email. “We have turned an important corner, and I am confident that Chancellor-designate May will have an extraordinary impact on this great institution.”

Napolitano announced May as her pick for chancellor just two days ago, after a search that began last summer. Napolitano worked on the recruitment with an advisory committee that included members representing faculty, students, staff, alumni, the campus foundation and regents.

Making her recommendation to the regents, Napolitano said May’s “expertise in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) certainly meshes with what are the many academic and research strengths at UC Davis.”

More About and From Gary May

But that was not the only reason for her pick. “More important, I believe, is that Gary May is a natural and dynamic leader who measures his own success by how well he helps others to succeed,” Napolitano said. “On that account alone he has done exceptionally well." She said May had "transformed" Georgia Tech through his "commitment to the same goals that we at the University of California hold so dear: excellence and equal access to education and opportunity."

May did his undergraduate work at Georgia Tech, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 1985, and continued his education at UC Berkeley, where he earned a master’s degree in 1988 and a Ph.D. in 1991, both in electrical engineering and computer science. The same year he earned his doctorate, he joined the faculty of Georgia Tech — and he has been there ever since, or, as he calculated it in a Georgia Tech news release, “more than half of my life … 55.92 percent to be exact.”

He has led the College of Engineering since July 2011. With more than 400 faculty members and 13,000 students, the college produces more engineering graduates than any other college in the United States.

His academic appointment at Georgia Tech is in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his research focus is computer-aided manufacturing of integrated circuits. He has authored more than 200 technical publications, contributed to 15 books and holds one patent.

He held the Steve W. Chaddick Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, before being named dean of the college, and he has held the Southern Company Chair since 2015.

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