Big changes are happening at UC Davis – and not just because of the centennial celebration. Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef announced Monday that he will be stepping down in June 2009, leaving behind shoes administrators believe will be difficult to fill.
Vanderhoef has served at UC Davis for 24 years as vice chancellor, provost and chancellor, achieving one of the longest periods of leadership that any chancellor has had with a single school.
“There was always something before [I resigned] that I wanted to make sure I got finished,” Vanderhoef said. “I finally realized that if I’m doing a good job, there’s always going to be something to stay for.”
Vanderhoef will take a yearlong sabbatical and return to UC Davis as a professor of plant biology and chancellor emeritus. Though many colleagues are disappointed to see him leave, Vanderhoef believes that after the centennial year, UC Davis will be ready for a change in leadership.
“The chancellor has been such an integral part of campus for so many years,” said Cathy VandeVoort, Academic Federation chair and adjunct professor. “He’s really provided guidance in a number of areas that I think have really changed the face of this campus. I’m sure he’s going to be missed systemwide, as well as at UC Davis.”
Vanderhoef grew up in Wisconsin and was the first in his family to graduate from high school. His success only grew from that point, as he oversaw a faculty increase of almost 50 percent and student enrollment growth from 22,000 to 30,000.
One the first major predicaments Vanderhoef experienced at UC Davis was a budget crisis in the early 1990s.
“There were some layoffs and hiring slowed. It was a grim time to be a chancellor. His leadership was crucial. He managed to steer us through a difficult time,” said Bruce Wolk, professor of law, former dean of law and Vanderhoef’s squash partner.
After overseeing major decisions regarding the crisis, Vanderhoef went on to win many awards for his leadership and accomplishments, including the prestigious Eisenhower Award for Excellence, an award given to leaders who have enhanced relationships between different countries.
Vanderhoef is admired among other university leaders as well.
“Chancellor Vanderhoef is highly respected by all our UC chancellors as well as leaders in the national and international communities of higher education,” said Henry Yang, chancellor of University of California Santa Barbara in an e-mail interview.
Vanderhoef also oversaw the construction of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, a state of the art center that has brought entertainment to the Davis and Sacramento area from around the world.
One of Vanderhoef’s more controversial decisions took place on the athletic front when he announced that UC Davis would progress on to a Division I athletics program.
During the UC payroll scandal in 2006, Vanderhoef faced scrutiny for hiring a woman who had previously filed a discrimination lawsuit against him. The decision threatened his vote when the Academic Senate proposed a “no confidence” vote. The lawsuit was dropped and the vote failed; however, Vanderhoef has since worked to regain the school’s trust.
Students in particular are confident in Vanderhoef’s abilities, said Alfredo Arredondo, student assistant to the chancellor.
“The current budget crisis has been weighing heavily on his mind, given the impact it’s going to have on the students in the years to come,” said Arredondo, a senior anthropology and Chicano/Chicana studies double major. “He’s been very supportive of student’s concerns, which speaks a lot to who he is as individual as well as a chancellor.”
Vanderhoef chose to announce his departure at this time in particular for several reasons.
“I wanted to make the announcement while the students were still here,” he said.
Also, the incoming president of the University of California, Mark Yudof, will begin his term this month. The search for a new chancellor will be his first task, and Vanderhoef expressed his confidence in Yudof’s decision.
Until his successor takes office, Vanderhoef will be preparing for his time as professor and completing various projects for the university.
“I am looking forward to a new chapter in my life,” he said.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at email@example.com.