UA's academic change of command

Posted: Friday, March 19, 2010

We say welcome and good luck to Pat Gamble as the new president of the University of Alaska system.

He's got quite an act to follow when he takes over in June. Retiring President Mark Hamilton oversaw significant accomplishments during his 11-year tenure as CEO of the state university system.

Consider this:

* State general fund support went from $165 million in FY98 to $313 million in FY09.

* Private giving to the university increased more than 75 percent from FY04 to FY08.

Federal funding, primarily through competitive research grants, increased by more than 60 percent since FY98, an increase of approximately $70 million.

* More of the state's high school graduates are attending UA: more than 63 percent now, compared to 40 percent in the mid-1990s.

* The number of degrees earned is up 20 percent.

* First-year to second-year student retention stands at 67 percent, compared with 22 percent a decade ago.

* Programs that create jobs Alaska needs are emphasized and supported. UA doubled the number of nursing graduates and expanded options in allied health programs. The institution is now on its way to doubling the number of engineering graduates.

That kind of growth doesn't happen without a CEO who's passionate about the institution he represents, possesses the skills to lead and has the magnetism to attract talented minds. That's been Hamilton's trademark since the Board of Regents hired him in 1998 as the system's 12th president.

At the time there was no small amount of concern -- chiefly among faculty -- about whether Hamilton's history as a highly medaled Army officer would fit within the academe. But the regents were looking for a strong leader with clear vision and a proven record of making change happen.

Regents got what they wanted 11 years ago. And with new president Gamble -- a retired, also highly decorated Air Force commander who now leaves his job as president and CEO of the Alaska Railroad Corp. -- it appears as though the regents are hoping to strike leadership gold one more time.

Good luck, President Gamble. Happy retirement, Mr. Hamilton.

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