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Dynes promises high standards


Robert C. Dynes (right), named the 18th president of the University of California
on June 11, succeeds Richard C. Atkinson (center) who will step down Oct. 1.
UC Regent John G. Davies (left) headed the special search committee.

UCLA Today Staff

Robert C. Dynes, selected as the new University of California president by the Board of Regents on June 11, pledged to propel the university along the path of scientific discovery and public service, while preserving the quality of its education even in times of financial duress.

Dynes — chancellor of UC San Diego since 1996, a distinguished physicist and first-generation college graduate — will be UC’s 18th president. Selected from a pool of more than 300 candidates, Dynes succeeds Richard C. Atkinson, who is retiring Oct. 1 after holding the post for eight years. Atkinson was also chancellor of UC San Diego.

“Bob Dynes is a superb choice for the presidency of the university system,” said Chancellor Albert Carnesale. “A top-notch scientist and administrator, he has done an outstanding job as chancellor of UCSD. We are fortunate to have him bringing his great skills to bear on leading the UC system as it confronts the dual challenge of increasing enrollment and declining state funding.”

The low-key Dynes, 60, is an expert on semiconductors and superconductors and spent 22 years at AT&T Bell Laboratories before joining UC San Diego in 1991 as a professor of physics. Dynes said he turned to academe after realizing “that the locus of American innovation was shifting from industry to the academy.

“I wanted to move with it, and I wanted to be part of the best university in the world in an environment that fostered innovation and collaboration,” Dynes said.

UC’s research mission has changed dramatically in just the past few years, Dynes said, noting that Sept. 11 moved the nation from a research-and-development epoch to an era of research, development and delivery. “We must move discoveries from the bench to the public domain more effectively,” he said. “And we must hand them off more quickly to end-users, whether they are first-responders in a crisis, farmers, health-care professionals, social workers or teachers.”

To that end, Dynes — a councilor of the National Academy of Sciences — has been hailed as a strong advocate for fostering the open exchange of ideas and advancing scientific discoveries, while simultaneously preserving a university’s integrity.

UCLA Professor Emeritus of Economics Werner Hirsch — who along with Dynes is a member of the California Colloquium, an informal group of 15 who meet for a day every couple of months to discuss and tackle challenges within California’s higher education system — said Dynes has the highest standards for keeping conflicts of interest at bay.

“He knows the industry, but at the same time, he has the right values,” Hirsch said. “He is very much concerned about a university acting as a role model for society, as a major force for advances in education, research and public service, while keeping in mind that this institution has to be safeguarded.”

And Dynes does not shirk off trying to find the answers to difficult issues, Hirsch said. “He is very personable, yet asks the most penetrating questions,” said the economist. “And he doesn’t get off them until we have discussed them in great detail, even if it’s hard to find a solution.”

Indeed, tough challenges lie ahead. Dynes will be taking the helm during a difficult time as UC grapples with a spiraling student enrollment as well as significant funding cuts from a state reeling from fiscal crisis.

“These same pressures are being felt by other universities in other states,” Dynes said. “There is a consensus that American public universities must redefine how they deliver quality higher education. And the rest of the country is looking to the University of California to lead the way.”

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