Chang-Lin Tien announces plans for final year as UC Berkeley chancellor

by Marie Felde

Also available: Statement from Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien, July 9, 1996, California Hall


Toward Excellence: Chancellor Tien's Six Years

Berkeley -- In a major announcement, Chang-Lin Tien said today (7/9) that he will step down as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, no later than June 30, 1997. By then, he will have served seven years as head of the nation's top-ranked public university.

The first Asian American ever to lead a major American research university, Tien, 60, has been chancellor of UC Berkeley since July of 1990. His tenure has encompassed an era of dramatic change in public higher education and difficult challenges for UC Berkeley.

"I have chosen to leave next year because the campus is at a high point in its history," Tien said in an announcement to university staff and faculty this morning. "There is no better time than now for me to pass the baton to a new leader.

"Drawing on record undergraduate applications, we have assembled a first-rate student body. The quality of our faculty remains unsurpassed," he said. "Despite severe federal budget cutbacks over the past few years, our extramural research support has grown by 35 percent to $318 million for the last academic year. And fund raising is on track to break all records. It astounds me that we have been able to raise about $780 million during my six years as chancellor. We would not have been able to maintain our academic excellence without this generosity."

Tien's decision was not an easy one. "Cal is so much a part of me, my wife, Di-Hwa, and our three children, who have grown up here at Berkeley. I know we will always be a part of Cal," he said.

He has made no plans for his future beyond returning to his teaching and research at UC Berkeley and spending more time with his family.

"My concern now is to ensure that the university has strong leadership to carry it into the new millennium," said Tien. "The capital campaign and other initiatives which we have begun will require another long-term commitment."

The campus is on such solid footing, Tien said, that last year a report by the prestigious National Research Council ranked UC Berkeley at the forefront of the nation's research universities. He cited the May/June issue of Change magazine that stated: "UC Berkeley rated exceptionally high any way you look at the report's figures."

But getting there was a sometimes rocky path. Over the past few years, Tien led UC Berkeley through the toughest financial times in campus history. Not even during the Great Depression did the university experience such devastating budget cuts.

"Today, Berkeley is riding a rising tide. I want to help plot a course that will let the next chancellor come in with favorable winds. Berkeley now enjoys an outstanding reputation in the field of higher education and tremendous goodwill among alumni and friends."

Under Tien's leadership, UC Berkeley:

  • Attracted the most talented and diverse student body in the nation. The campus had a record number of applicants last year, and enrolled more freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class than any university in the nation. Reflecting the rapid changes in California's population mix, the undergraduate population at UC Berkeley is now 40 percent Asian American students, 31 percent White/Caucasian, 14 percent Chicano/Latino, 6 percent African American, 1 percent Native American and 8 percent other.
  • Recruited a galaxy of new academic stars against tough competition and held onto its top faculty despite increasingly attractive offers from Harvard, Princeton, and other top ranked universities. In recent years, UC Berkeley successfully recruited 80 percent of its top choices for new faculty.
  • Increased extramural research support by 35 percent to $318 million in the face of significant declines in federal spending.
  • Broke all records for private gifts to a public university. In his six years as chancellor, the UC Berkeley campus has raised about $780 million, with $331 million raised in the last two years alone. With the announcement of the public phase of Cal's capital campaign due in September, the campus is well on its way to reaching its $1 billion goal.
  • Completed the most aggressive and far-reaching campus construction program in half a century. Among the new facilities are the Haas School of Business, new underground stacks linking Doe and Moffitt libraries, computer science's Soda Hall, the University Health Service's Tang Center, Foothill Student Housing, the Northwest Animal Facility, the Valley Life Sciences Building, Koshland Hall and the Genetics and Plant Biology building.
  • Tien's commitment to academic excellence was matched by his enthusiasm for Cal athletics, for which he won the hearts of students and alumni alike. His tenure saw the football team win three bowl games, the men's basketball team make the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, and the women's water polo team finish second in the nation this past spring.
  • Improved town-gown relations, especially in Berkeley's south side where many long-simmering and difficult issues between the campus and the city over People's Park were resolved.

Born in Wuhan, China, and raised in Shanghai and Taiwan, Tien came to the United States as a graduate student in 1956. Drawing on his personal experience as a refugee immigrant, he has been a forceful national advocate for the rights of immigrants and a staunch defender of affirmative action programs to help overcome racism.

Tien has also played a prominent role in building ties between the U. S. and Asia, particularly in helping to bridge the thorny gap between mainland China and Taiwan. In May, at the White House's request, he went to Taiwan as a member of the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of newly elected president, Lee Teng-hui.

In announcing his resignation, Tien said, "It is a great honor and special privilege to lead such a great university. I came to this job with a number of specific goals, and I will leave feeling proud of what we have accomplished."

Tien indicated he would devote his seventh year as chancellor to the goals he enunciated in his inaugural message six years ago. They include assuring the excellence of faculty and academic programs, creating a welcoming and supportive campus atmosphere, fostering diversity, strengthening undergraduate education and cultivating productive relationships with UC Berkeley's neighbors, alumni and friends around the world.

In addition, Tien will continue to press his efforts to enhance academic excellence through new faculty initiatives and increased private fund raising, build stronger ties to the Pacific Rim, and create new educational projects such as the Berkeley Pledge, an effort he has led to improve K-12 education through campus partnerships and recruit and maintain a diverse student body.

Tien's entire professional career, with the exception of a two-year stint as executive vice chancellor at UC Irvine, has been spent at UC Berkeley. A professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley for 37 years, he has maintained an active laboratory. He continues to publish in his field and do research -- often late at night after completing his administrative duties.

He and his wife of 37 years, Di-Hwa, have three children, all graduates of UC Berkeley. The entire family is fully devoted to Cal and will continue their active involvement with the campus in the future. ###

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