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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

University, County Pick New Leaders

Minnesota Educator Gets Cal State Job

March 07, 2001|KATIE COOPER and FRED ALVAREZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Richard Rush, an educator known for his community outreach and prolific fund-raising, was named president of Cal State Channel Islands on Tuesday.

The 58-year-old president of Minnesota State University at Mankato brings to the job extensive experience in building and expanding college campuses and an intimate knowledge of the Cal State system, where he served as a faculty member and administrator for nearly 20 years before assuming the top job at Mankato in 1992.

He will step in at a crucial time in the development of the Camarillo area campus, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2002 if enrollment goals are met.

The academic program at the budding university is still under development, and the first faculty members have yet to be hired.

Rush, who replaces outgoing President Handel Evans, will hire about 25 faculty members by August to help plan educational programs and course content. He is also expected to fill the university's top administrative positions.

"I feel very honored that I have been entrusted with this project," Rush said in a telephone interview from Minnesota. "I felt I had the background they were looking for."

Rush, who grew up in Los Angeles and holds a doctorate in English Renaissance literature from UCLA, was one of three finalists for the position.

He and the other finalists--Vicky Carwein, chancellor and dean of the University of Washington at Tacoma, and Michael Ortiz, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Cal State Fresno--participated in a final round of interviews with the full Cal State Board of Trustees on Monday.

Rush was chosen in a unanimous vote and offered the job later that day. The official announcement was made Tuesday.

"His experience put him over the top," Chancellor Charles B. Reed said.

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Reed praised Rush's fund-raising and community outreach at Mankato, where he spearheaded drives for a privately funded $18-million arena and student center, and a $3-million performing arts center.

He also said Rush could draw from his familiarity in starting up a Cal State campus. In the late 1980s and early '90s, Rush served as executive vice president of Cal State San Marcos, assisting with development of the then-fledgling campus. He was also a dean and director of a San Diego State University satellite center that was discontinued when the San Marcos campus opened.

"At a new start-up, you need to have somebody there who knows exactly who to call to get something done," Reed said.

As part of its effort to provide first-rate educational offerings, Channel Islands, which Cal State Northridge now uses for extension courses, plans on extensive private fund-raising.

For example, a drive is under way to build a $35-million undergraduate and research library, said Barbara Thorpe, associate academic vice president at the campus.

Rush will take over for Evans in June, but his start date and salary have not been determined. Evans, who was traveling outside the country and could not be reached for comment, will stay on temporarily to assist with the transition, officials said.

Rush, the only child of a father who was a lawyer and a mother with a master's degree in psychology, said he never planned on serving as an administrator when he started out as a English literature professor at San Diego State in 1971.

But he was soon appointed to faculty leadership roles and eventually administrative positions by the university, he said.

"I thought I would be sitting in a musty library with 16th- and 17th-century books," he said. "It never entered my mind that I would be a university president."

After he assumed the top job at Mankato, 75 miles south of the Twin Cities, he quickly made his mark, colleagues said.

Paul J. Hustoles, chairman of the theater and dance department at Mankato, said people around campus had talked for years of building both an arena and performing arts space.

"And then he came, and it just happened," he said.

Hustoles, who serves in a leadership role in the faculty union, said he appreciated Rush's personnel management skills over the other two presidents he has worked under. He said Rush recognizes the talents of people and treats all staff with respect.

Rush also pushed for growth of the 12,000-student campus, despite declining state funding.

He signed agreements with telecommunications companies to turn the university into a wireless campus. Students there will soon be provided with hand-held devices that have telephone, Internet and e-mail capabilities.

The university also leases office space to IBM and AT & T for revenue purposes.

Those arrangements closely match Channel Islands' vision for funding its growth, from developing homes for purchase by faculty and staff to leasing office space on campus to high-tech companies.

Hustoles said the Mankato community will miss Rush.

He was dubbed a "president of the people," due in large part to his tradition of bunking in dormitories for a week each year to better connect with students.

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