Vanderhoef, appointed in 1994 as UC Davis' fifth chancellor, is one of the nation's longest-serving university leaders and is widely credited for nurturing future university presidents and provosts. He came to the campus in 1984, first serving as executive vice chancellor and then provost/executive vice chancellor. After what will be a full quarter century of service to UC Davis, he will take a yearlong sabbatical, and then return to the faculty as a professor of plant biology. He will also continue to support the campus as chancellor emeritus.
"I can't imagine greater good fortune than to have spent the past 24 years at UC Davis," Vanderhoef said in a letter today to the campus community. "Along the way, there have been challenges to be sure, but together we have helped this remarkable university to reach higher, to be bolder and to achieve great distinction. For those years and those opportunities, I will always be grateful." (For the full text of the letter, go to http://chancellor.ucdavis.edu.)
The University of California system's top leaders -- UC's current president, Robert Dynes, and incoming President Mark Yudof -- led the chorus of many who praised Vanderhoef for his distinguished tenure.
Dynes pointed out that Vanderhoef "has been the senior chancellor of the UC system for several years, and all the other chancellors and I look to him for wisdom and experience." Yudof, outgoing president of the University of Texas, said that, from afar, he has "watched the campus go from relative obscurity to the front ranks among the nation's research universities."
Expanded access and opportunityThe first in his family to complete high school, and one of the very few in his Wisconsin foundry town to find his way to college, Vanderhoef has dedicated his time as chancellor to removing barriers to higher education. He elevated the campus's Division of Education to a new School of Education when other universities were downsizing theirs, expanded partnerships with community colleges, encouraged disadvantaged elementary school students to stay on track through the innovative "Reservation for College" program, and partnered with leaders of regional communities of color to raise awareness of UC Davis.
Enormous stridesOn his watch, UC Davis has grown and prospered. The campus was invited in 1996 to join the prestigious Association of American Universities, representing the top 62 research universities in North America. Research funds, won competitively by UC Davis' faculty, increased from $169 million to more than $500 million annually. The campus has risen in national rankings, too. UC Davis is now ranked 8th among all U.S. universities in contributions to society (Washington Monthly) and 11th among U.S. public universities (U.S. News & World Report). Private gifts have jumped from $40 million to nearly $200 million a year, with more than $1 billion cumulatively raised in support of programs -- including $100 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to launch a new School of Nursing, $35 million from Robert and Margrit Mondavi to name the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and a $10 million gift from alumnus Maurice Gallagher to help fund a new building -- Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall -- and endowment for the Graduate School of Management.
Under Vanderhoef's leadership and direction, UC Davis has also made great strides in recruiting a diverse and accomplished faculty and student body. Student enrollment has grown from 22,000 to 30,000, and the faculty has increased by 44 percent. More than 4 million square feet of classroom, lab, clinical, performance and office space have been added. And an ailing county hospital in Sacramento has been transformed into an academically distinguished and financially sound regional medical center.
Among Vanderhoef's most ambitious undertakings is a new south entry to the campus, anchored by the state-of-the-art Mondavi Center, the soon-to-open Robert Mondavi Institute and the under-construction Graduate School of Management, conference center and hotel buildings. On another campus flank will soon rise West Village, an innovative and environmentally sensitive neighborhood that will provide affordable housing for students, faculty and staff, as well as a village square and community college center -- a first within UC.
International academic diplomacyBut Vanderhoef's interests and influence have stretched far beyond Northern California. In 2004, for example, in the face of considerable concern and disapproval, the chancellor led what he was told was the first high-level university delegation to visit Iran since that country's 1979 revolution. Vanderhoef wrote in a journal at the time, "We're not going to Iran to make a political statement, nor are we seeking publicity. We're simply one university wanting to talk to another university about ways in which we can work together. And, perhaps in the process, one small step can be taken toward a return to normalcy in the Middle East."
Vanderhoef has been asked to return to Iran this November, this time as a member of a small delegation of university presidents sponsored by the Association of American Universities.
Principled decisions in the face of criticismCertainly, Vanderhoef's 2004 trip to Iran was not the first of the tough decisions he has made as a UC Davis leader. Indeed, it was a fiscal crisis in the early 1990s, when Vanderhoef was then provost and executive vice chancellor, that proved his mettle and ultimately positioned him to be chancellor. He oversaw painfully deep cuts and staff layoffs, yet in a collaborative way that restored a sense of stability and fairness to a campus in tumult. It was then that he initiated his series of brownbag chats that continue today, offering faculty, staff and students a regular opportunity to meet and talk with him.
When the UC Regents in 1995 ended the use of race, ethnicity and gender in admissions, Vanderhoef vocally opposed the action, believing that without an immediate alternative to provide access for the disadvantaged a generation of students would be lost. Soon after, when it was UC Davis' turn to be featured at a Regents meeting, he brought the diverse Gospel Choir to perform, and brought the Regents to their feet.
In 2003, Vanderhoef made another controversial decision -- announcing that UC Davis would move from Division II to Division I athletics, knowing that the faculty as a whole would not be supportive. The chancellor said then that the campus really had no alternative. "We are seeking, in an evolving landscape, firm ground upon which to continue and to enhance a program that is centered around the student-athlete and the teacher-coach," he said at the time. The Big West Conference would offer Davis a better academic, philosophical and competitive "fit," he said, and align it with sister campuses UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara. In this, the first official Division I season at UC Davis, the Aggies sent 11 teams to NCAA postseason play.
In 1993, Vanderhoef disappointed students at the School of Law with his decision that broadcast media could not be barred from covering the commencement speech of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, a condition of the justice's speaking. Blackmun withdrew, and the unhappy graduates signaled their discontent by passing around a jar of sourballs at commencement. New York Newsday, however, wrote that "Maybe [Vanderhoef] is the one who ought to be on the Supreme Court."
Nurturing university leadersTo be sure, Vanderhoef has never been one to seek out controversy to raise his own profile. On the contrary, this unassuming and down-to-earth Midwesterner has always been more interested in bringing recognition to UC Davis than to himself, and in growing new academic leaders along the way.
In the past 15 years, more than a dozen UC Davis administrators have gone on to president and provost positions at major universities around the country. They say Vanderhoef's collegial and collaborative approach to problem solving, along with his belief in delegating both authority and responsibility, provide junior administrators the experience to move on and up.
"That type of experience, particularly with an excellent, diverse team, provides strong leadership development," said Virginia Hinshaw, former UC Davis provost and executive vice chancellor and current president of the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
"Larry Vanderhoef sets a positive tone at the top for good behavior among administrators, and I believe this brings out the best in people," said Mark McNamee, former dean of biological sciences at UC Davis and now provost of Virginia Tech.
Still, Vanderhoef has garnered many personal accolades. Recognized for his "passion to make things happen," he was honored by the Sacramento (California) Business Journal as one of the 20 people who have contributed most substantially to California's capital region over the past 20 years. The Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce named him Sacramentan of the Year in 2004, and the Arts and Business Council of Sacramento presented him with its Prelude to the Season Outstanding Contribution Award in 2003. And in 2006, the Northern California World Trade Center and the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency presented him with the International Leadership Award, in recognition of his efforts to increase the campus's international engagement.
Early in his career, he was named an Eisenhower Fellow, a recognition given to emerging leaders from around the world to promote positive relationships and interactions between countries. He was awarded honorary doctoral degrees by Purdue University and Inje University in Korea, and an honorary professorship by China Agricultural University. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. in plant biochemistry from Purdue University.
Nationwide searchA nationwide search for a new Davis chancellor will be initiated, and a committee with regent, faculty, staff, student, alumni and foundation board representatives will be named to advise Yudof, the incoming UC president, in the selection of Vanderhoef's successor.
UC Davis, a land-grant institution, is a leader in interdisciplinary study, offering more than 100 academic majors and 86 graduate programs. It is the only campus in the UC system with schools of Education, Law, Management, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. The campus's breadth of academic and outside-the-classroom programs, commitment to providing an attentive and research-enriched education, determination to address society's needs and consideration of campus community members as family are truly distinctive.
What others are saying about Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef's distinguished tenure at UC Davis:
UC President Robert Dynes: "I heartily congratulate Larry for all he has accomplished. Larry has been the senior chancellor of the UC system for several years, and all the other chancellors and I look to him for wisdom and experience. During his tenure as chancellor, UC Davis has grown in size, stature and excellence, and everyone within UC is proud of it. Congratulations to a friend for a stellar accomplishment."
UC President-designate Mark Yudof: "Larry has done a remarkable job during his tenure at UC Davis. I have, from afar, watched the campus go from relative obscurity to the front ranks among the nation's research universities. I offer him my heartiest congratulations, and I am looking forward to working with him during his final year."
UC Provost Rory Hume: "Chancellor Vanderhoef has served both UC Davis and the UC system as a whole with great distinction. During his long period of leadership Davis has grown enormously in academic distinction, and in size. It has substantially broadened the scope of its academic programs, while retaining its highly valuable, distinctive nature. Much credit for those advances rests directly with Larry Vanderhoef. He has also been a superb citizen of the UC system, wise, measured, supportive and decisive. We could ask for no better colleague and friend."
Robert Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities and former UC Berkeley chancellor: "Larry Vanderhoef has been an extraordinarily successful chancellor of UC Davis. Under his leadership, Davis emerged as one of the outstanding public universities in America. He has provided leadership within the University of California, where his voice and judgment are widely respected by the other chancellors, and he has been an effective leader on the national stage as well, including at AAU. His leadership has always been marked by intelligence, thoughtfulness, and generosity of spirit. I am proud to consider him a colleague and friend."
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Patricia Turner: "It has been my privilege to serve on Larry Vanderhoef's leadership team. When he appointed me to my first senior position, I was relatively untested. He recognized managerial and leadership abilities I did not even see in myself. I believe his ability to identify and support strong leaders stands as one of his most significant gifts to the campus. As well, he has an uncanny ability to connect with undergraduate students and takes seriously their comments and suggestions. For the past 14 years, UC Davis students have been very fortunate to have a chancellor who prioritized their academic and extra-curricular well-being."
Robert and Margrit Mondavi, in nominating Chancellor Vanderhoef for a 2006 CEO Leadership Award: "Chancellor Vanderhoef's leadership has elevated the accomplishments and the reputation of UC Davis, and has inspired the support of people like us, who share his vision and see opportunities for creating a lasting legacy through investment in a remarkable university. We share with Larry Vanderhoef a commitment to innovation and excellence, and to the risk-taking that's inevitably required to be successful."
Then-Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, in supporting Chancellor Vanderhoef's 2004 selection as "one of the 20 people who have contributed most substantially to California's capital region over the past 20 years": "When Larry arrived at UC Davis…he brought with him a commitment to not only guide UC Davis to the top tier of national universities but to ensure that the university was engaged with its broader community….UC Davis has clearly flourished under Larry's leadership and consequently has contributed substantially to the state's and the region's prosperity."