The University of California, Davis, kicked off a very special Homecoming weekend today (Oct. 27), with an investiture ceremony formally recognizing that Gary S. May has assumed the authority of his office as chancellor.
UC President Janet Napolitano presided over the ceremony, which began with a processional of UC Davis faculty in their Ph.D. regalia, and included members of the Board of Regents and fellow chancellors from within the UC system, as well as May’s family and mentors from his life whom he credited with “helping me get where I am today.”
“In the South, there’s an expression that goes like this: If a turtle is sitting on a fence post, it didn't get there by itself. Somebody helped the turtle,” May said in his remarks. Born in St. Louis to a postal worker father and schoolteacher mother, he thanked his mother, Gloria, who was in the audience, for “putting me in good schools and for making college a priority in the May family. And, most of all, for believing in me.”
This morning’s ceremony included a keynote address by one of May’s early mentors, G. Wayne Clough, secretary emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution and president emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, where May earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and later, after receiving a master’s and Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, went on to a 26-year career on the faculty, the last six as dean of the Georgia Tech College of Engineering.
‘The Path to UC Davis’
‘To Boldly Go’
May hit the ground running in Davis even before his first day on the job Aug. 1. He hosted Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg in Atlanta, where they toured the city’s Technology Square — a collaborative effort between Georgia Tech and the city of Atlanta and one he hopes can serve as a model for future efforts between Sacramento and UC Davis. He embarked on a listening tour among the university’s internal and external stakeholders to hear what they think is most important for the university’s future, and launched a strategic planning initiative to help positively shape the “sleeping giant’s” future trajectory.
“It’s time for the sleeping giant to wake up. … My goal is to make us one of the handful of universities that’s on the tip of the tongue when you talk about the nation’s great public research universities,” May said. “We are not far from that now.” The plan, entitled “To Boldly Go,” reflecting the pioneering themes embedded in Star Trek, a favorite show of the chancellor’s, will serve as a 10-year plan for the university. “Who will stand in the way of a university that wants to boldly go where no university has gone before?” May asked the audience at the packed Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
Since arriving on campus nearly three months ago, Chancellor May and his wife, LeShelle, have been making the rounds across the Davis and Sacramento campuses and beyond, from helping first-year students move into the residence halls, to opening the School of Nursing’s state of-the-art Betty Irene Moore Hall, to participating in congressional press conferences in support of the university’s DACA students, referring to those who are protected from deportation despite their immigration status, having entered the United States as children.
“I hope that over the years, people will see my leadership as visible, approachable and accessible. I think they’ll see that I have the best interests of the students and the university at heart,” May continued.
“I don’t want UC Davis to be a place that only trains and educates students. I want us to actually empower them to be agents of their own success, their career and their destiny, and to do some good in the world.”