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Former Michigan State provost nominated to head UC Riverside

UC regents will vote on Kim Wilcox's nomination as UC Riverside chancellor Aug. 8. He was at Michigan State during budget cuts.

July 25, 2013|By Larry Gordon
  • Kim Wilcox has been nominated to be chancellor of UC Riverside. He recently stepped down as provost at Michigan State University.
Kim Wilcox has been nominated to be chancellor of UC Riverside. He recently… (Kurt Stepnitz )

The former No. 2 administrator at Michigan State and a recent finalist to lead several other public universities across the country has been nominated to be the next chancellor of UC Riverside, officials announced Thursday.

Kim A. Wilcox, an expert in speech and hearing disorders who helped lead Michigan State University during a period of state budget cuts, is expected to be confirmed by UC regents as head of the 22,000-student Riverside campus. His salary and other terms of employment will not be publicly released until the regents vote on his nomination during a teleconference Aug. 8.

Friends say Wilcox long wanted to be in charge of a campus and saw no short-term chance that Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon would retire. Earlier this year, he was among the finalists to become chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Madison and president at the University of Wyoming. Last year he was a finalist to head the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

In a 10-campus university system with such international academic powerhouses as UCLA and UC Berkeley, UC Riverside has been fighting to gain more resources and prestige. After much debate and funding complications, it recently began to enroll students at its new medical school in an arrangement that will train doctors at community hospitals.

Wilcox, 59, recently stepped down after eight years as provost and executive vice president of the sprawling Michigan State in East Lansing, which enrolls about 47,000 students and includes two medical schools. He appeared to remain popular even though he helped oversee spending cuts, consolidated departments and laid off staff due to severe reductions in state funding.

Evan Martinak, president of the undergraduate student government, said Wilcox listened to students' concerns and helped push for some of their causes, such as making it easier to re-take a class if a student didn't do well the first time. During budget cutbacks and rising tuition, Wilcox helped to maintain financial aid, Martinak said.

"I think a lot of folks in academia would not be able to handle the situation in Michigan the way Kim was able to," he said.

Michigan State trustee Dianne Byrum, who is a former state legislator, described Wilcox as "a people person who puts you at ease."

That helped, she said, during thorny discussions with faculty and staff over cutting costs. "It was done as smoothly as anything of that magnitude could have been done," she said.

Wilcox previously was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas and was president of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees higher education in that state. He earned a bachelor's in audiology and speech sciences from Michigan State and a master's and doctorate in related fields from Purdue University.

In nominating Wilcox, UC system President Mark G. Yudof made what is probably his final major appointment before his own retirement in September — when he will be succeeded by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Wilcox "has been a dedicated teacher, scholar and researcher who also excelled as an academic leader and chief executive, always maintaining his commitment to diversity and access to higher education," Yudof said in a prepared statement.

Until the regents vote, Wilcox will decline interviews, according to UC officials. In a statement, he said: "My values and interests align perfectly with UC Riverside, one of the nation's great research universities. I look forward to meeting with students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the larger community, to learning and exchanging ideas and to working toward making Riverside the best it can be."

More than 100 candidates were considered and six were interviewed, officials said. But unlike some other state universities, UC does not reveal finalists.

UC Riverside's previous chancellor, Timothy White, left last year to lead the 23-campus Cal State system.

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