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Gray makes 'tough call' to step down
After six years in the No. 2 job on campus, Berkeley's Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost will return to teaching and the lab

| 12 October 2005


Paul Gray (Peg Skorpinski photo)
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Gray just might be the hardest-working man on campus, but you would never hear him say it. As the campus's second-highest administrator and chief academic officer, his portfolio includes all 15 schools and colleges - from Optometry to Letters and Science - and core campus units from the University Library to Cal Performances to the Center for Race and Gender. More than 30 administrators report directly to him, and he has overseen the hiring or reappointment of nearly all the current academic deans.

But it's not just the daunting scope of Gray's job, it's the way he's carried it out that will give the campus big shoes to fill when Gray steps down on July 1 to return to teaching and research in the College of Engineering. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced Gray's decision on Tuesday.

"Jobs like these are all about people," says Gray, who has served as Berkeley's EVC&P since 2000. "Ninety percent of my job is to support the people in the leadership positions - deans and senior staff and department chairs - and to bring in new people when those positions become open."

Gray's California Hall office is the nerve center of Berkeley's academic operation, but in his typically modest fashion, you wouldn't catch him saying so. "You spend an inordinate amount of time just turning the crank, operating the machinery, putting out the fires, doing the day-to-day things, solving the problems," he says. "Look, compared to what the chancellor handles, I have no complaints. But it's not uncommon to pick up the newspaper in the morning and have your whole day change instantly."

When he leaves California Hall at the end of this school year, Gray will have served in academic leadership positions at Berkeley for 16 years. He was dean of the College of Engineering from 1996 to 2000 and chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from 1990 to 1993. During all that time he continued to supervise graduate students and keep a hand in his fast-changing discipline in EECS.

"I miss the teaching and the classroom and graduate students," says Gray of his decision. "One of the strengths of Berkeley is the willingness of faculty members with active research and teaching programs to take the time and go help run the place for a while. That's probably more a tradition at Berkeley than at many other institutions."

He adds, "I think the world of Bob Birgeneau. He is going to be great here and a wonderful chancellor. It was a tough call [to step down] because the opportunity to work with him longer would certainly be attractive and fun, but I do think it is time for fresh energy and fresh vision."

Birgeneau returned the compliment in announcing Gray's planned departure. "Paul Gray has been an extremely effective and highly regarded provost and has been central to the development of our vision for Berkeley," he said. "I am deeply indebted to him for having stayed on to assist me through the initial years of my chancellorship."

During his term, together with former Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, Gray successfully guided the campus budget process through a difficult, multi-year period of cuts in state funding, said Birgeneau. He also praised Gray's leadership in helping bring together campus leaders and industry representatives to convince then-Gov. Gray Davis to establish the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) on the Berkeley campus.

Gray also worked with faculty leaders and other administrators to guide the development of the campus's far-reaching Strategic Academic Plan, first released in June 2002. The plan established the framework for the long-range plan for the physical development of the campus as well as mechanisms for supporting emerging, interdisciplinary fields of study.

"When I look back, what is most satisfying by far is that we have been able to assemble on this campus a leadership team, led by Chancellor Birgeneau, that is really excellent. The university has a set of people, in the central administration and leading the schools, colleges, and divisions, who can provide high-quality leadership for the next several years. I feel really good about that," says Gray.

Key in that leadership scheme is Gray's success in structuring the provost's office, adding two new vice provosts to complement Jan De Vries' oversight of academic affairs and faculty welfare. The vice provost for academic planning and facilities - a job held first by Bill Webster and now by Cathy Koshland - coordinates the physical development of the campus with the requirements of the academic program; it was a need Gray saw clearly as the dean who guided program planning for the renovated Hearst Memorial Mining Building and the early stages of the new Stanley Hall.

He also identified the need to "add someone in California Hall whose total focus is on improving the undergraduate experience here." The result was the appointment of Christina Maslach to the new post of vice provost for undergraduate education. Her work with many across campus has paid off, Gray says: The strong program of lower-division seminars has gotten stronger, use of information technology in support of teaching has grown, and undergrads now have more opportunities to work closely with faculty in the classroom and on research.

Gray was also instrumental in managing enrollment growth, seen as the ominous "Tidal Wave II" at the end of the 1990s. Berkeley has grown by about 3,400 of the 4,000 students predicted. But Gray notes his disappointment that the state budget has prevented the campus from growing the faculty at a corresponding rate.

Situation for staff is likely to improve

Another disappointment, he says, is that state budget cuts have been especially painful for campus staff, "who are an incredible resource. The staff is working, in many cases, not at market, and in many cases they are overworked because there are fewer of them." But, he adds, "I think now the indicators are pretty good that the situation will improve."

Improving the diversity of the student body and faculty was another important campus goal, he says: "We've made some progress and we've put an immense amount of effort in this. But as the chancellor points out, we have a great challenge there, and we have a long way to go."

Still, he says, he is hopeful about future progress in many areas, including improved state funding. "I actually believe we can win the battle. We have a strong case that excellence in higher education is closely tied to the growth of the state's economy. We can justify sustaining and increasing the investment that is being made," he says, noting that increased private funding will also be essential to sustaining Berkeley's excellence.

Over his final eight months in office, Gray says, planning for the campus's comprehensive fundraising campaign will top the agenda. "Most indicators say that, despite our challenges with the state budget and faculty and staff salaries, we seem to be holding our own. But we need help. Over a 20-year period, state support in dollars-per-student here has fluctuated with the economic cycle, but shows a superimposed long-term, gradual but relatively stable decline. California supports higher education well, but that support is eroding."

He says the campus must develop more sources of private support to maintain quality and access for students. "The uniqueness of the campus is the mixture of academic excellence with access for students from a broad spectrum of socio-economic groups..That unique combination is threatened unless we can bring in a lot more private support."

Gray, 62, joined the EECS in 1971. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and holds the Andrew S. Grove Chair in Electrical Engineering. His research interests have included bipolar and MOS circuit design, electro-thermal interactions in integrated circuits, device modeling, telecommunications circuits, and analog-digital interfaces. He is the co-author of a widely used college textbook on analog integrated circuits.

The search for a new executive vice chancellor and provost will begin soon with the appointment by the chancellor of a small advisory committee. "I will be looking for someone who has a deep knowledge and experience of Berkeley and with whom I can work in partnership as successfully as I have with Paul Gray," says Birgeneau.