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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences deans resign

Neal Van Alfen and James D. MacDonald,  the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Executive Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences respectively, have resigned from their positions at UC Davis.

The resignations are a direct response to Chancellor Linda Katehi’s decision to begin the search for a replacement Dean of the College two years prior to the end of Van Alfen’s term, rather than waiting the conventional final year to begin the search for a replacement.

“Because I cannot support this decision by the campus leadership, I believe that the proper course of action for me is to step down from my administrative post,” states MacDonald’s e-mail to colleagues.

MacDonald originally planned to retire in July 2012, but he was convinced by Van Alfen to maintain his position until July 2013 to help advance the College and several initiatives. In light of Katehi’s decision, MacDonald said that Van Alfen’s departure renders his agreement to prolong his departure “moot.”

Interim Executive Director of Strategic Communications Barry Shiller explained that Van Alfen’s contributions will not go unacknowledged.

“Dean Van Alfen was a terrific leader for UC Davis for almost 14 years; under his leadership, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has made great progress. His and Professor MacDonald’s contributions to the University are greatly valued,” he said.

In Provost Ralph Hexter’s letter to the campus community, Hexter credited Van Alfen for the advancements achieved under his leadership, such as establishing UC Davis as a global leader in sustainability and related disciplines. Hexter also announced that Dean Michael Lairmore of the School of Veterinary Medicine will chair the Recruitment Advisory Committee to identify a permanent dean for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“Neal leaves CAES well poised for further excellence. The college, our oldest, is critical to our core mission and identity as a leading public research university making singular contributions to our state, our nation and the world,” said Hexter in the letter.
In an e-mail to colleagues, Van Alfen cited Katehi’s decision to search for a replacement prematurely as his reason for resigning from his position.

“The chancellor requested that I serve until a replacement is found, but given her decision to replace me before the end of my term, I feel I must resign,” he stated in his e-mail.

“Our college is a collective responsibility, now as in the past, and I hope it remains in good leadership hands.  It has been an honor to be dean of this great college and to serve with a remarkable group of associate deans, department chairs, faculty, institute and center directors, staff, and students of our college,” the e-mail stated.
Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Mary Delany, will serve as interim Dean of the College. Delaney, a distinguished avian geneticist, has served as associate dean since the year 2009. Delaney first joined the UC Davis faculty in 1995 in the departments of Avian Sciences and Animal Science.
“Dean Van Alfen was a terrific leader for UC Davis for almost 14 years; under his leadership, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has made great progress. His and Professor MacDonald’s contributions to the University are greatly valued. Professor Delany, a well-regarded avian scientist, has stepped in on an interim basis,” Shiller said.

GHEED SAEED can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

Neal Van Alfen and James D. MacDonald in review, according to the UC Davis website:

Van Alfen

  • Served as dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences since 1999
  • Appointed to a third term as dean by the Chancellor in 2009
  • Editor of the Annual Review of Phytopathology
  • Served as president of the American Phytopathological Society
  • Chaired the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council
  • Founder of the Agricultural Biotechnology Communicators group
MacDonald
  • Joined the Department of Plant Pathology in 1978
  • Appointed chair of the Department in 1995
  • Named executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1999
  • Received the California Association of Nurserymen Research Award in 1989
  • Received the Teaching Excellence Award of the American Phytopathological Society in 1998

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