San Diego Chancellor Richard Atkinson will become UC's 17th president on Oct. 1 following action by the Board of Regents at a special meeting in San Francisco Aug. 18.
In accepting the $243,500 a year position, Atkinson said, "This institution has a special place in my heart, and I will do my utmost to ensure its future."
Atkinson, 66, will replace President Jack Peltason who announced his resignation earlier this year.
The regents voted 19-1, with three abstentions and three members, including Gov. Wilson, absent. Voting against the appointment was student regent Edward Gomez of UC Riverside.
In announcing the appointment, Regents' Chair Clair Burgener said, "Coupled with his reputation as an internationally respected scholar and his experience in national educational leadership, he will bring to the presidency of UC both the skill and the experience to lead it into the 21st century."
Atkinson said he looked forward to the opportunity. "The people of California created the finest public university in the world and I am committed to continuing its pre-eminence," he said while acknowledging that there are "enormous challenges" facing the system.
In a press conference immediately following his appointment, Atkinson outlined five priorities:
-- Attract and maintain the best qualified faculty and staff.
-- Ensure all students are afforded a quality education.
-- Provide greater assistance to elementary and secondary schools "to give young people the best possible start in life."
-- Forge new research partnerships with industry and government to ensure California's continued economic progress.
-- Develop new management systems that promote efficiency and guarantee accountability.
Asked by a reporter how he will respond to the regents' decision to eliminate race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions, Atkinson said, "I did not welcome the action of the regents," but said their commitment to maintain diversity and enhance outreach programs, "gives us the opportunity to involve the university in the early education effort and have substantial impacts over time."
He was also asked if all campuses should retain current programs. "It is not necessary for all campuses to have a full spectrum of programs that a UCLA or Berkeley has" to be a tremendous institution, he said.
"I believe we will have to specialize. That's a reasonable direction to go." He praised current discussions under way with physics departments across UC. All campuses will offer physics, he said, but they may specialize in various areas of the discipline.
Finally, when asked about UC's financial future, he said it is clear the university must work with the governor and Legislature and that a pact needs to be set between the university and the public.
A highly successful fund raiser at San Diego, he noted that for every dollar the state invests in the university, "it gets a tremendous multiplier effect for the economy."
Atkinson's specialty is psychology and cognitive science where he transformed intuitive ideas about the nature of human memory into an explicit theory that was formulated in mathematical terms.
He was director of the National Science Foundation under President Carter before joining the San Diego campus as its chancellor in 1980.
During his tenure, student enrollment grew 62 percent and the quality of the faculty has grown as well. UC San Diego boasts six Nobel laureates, 55 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 72 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Accompanying Atkinson to the meeting was his wife, Rita Atkinson. She holds a PhD in psychology and is co-author with him and two colleagues of "Introduction to Psychology."