Fifty miles separate UCLA and UC Irvine, but the connection between the two University of California campuses got closer on March 31 when UCI installed UCLA alumnus Howard Gillman ’80, M.A. ’81, Ph.D. ’88 as its sixth chancellor.

The installation ceremony formally recognized the appointment that UC President Janet Napolitano had made six months earlier when she tapped Gillman to lead the 50-year-old Orange County campus, home to more than 30,700 students, 1,100 faculty and 9,400 staff.

“Howard Gillman has all that it takes — a record of leadership, scholarship and fundraising skills — to lead this vital campus,” Napolitano remarked last September, as the UC Board of Regents approved Gillman’s selection following a national search that attracted 405 applicants.

In describing his goals for UCI, the new chancellor says, “We want to continue to grow. We’d like to serve more students. We would like to be able to invest in areas where our research could have the highest impact, both globally and regionally. And we want to make sure this remarkable new generation of students — the future of California — and achieve at the very highest level.”

Gillman grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where he was a first-generation college student. He put his three UCLA degrees in political science to use initially at the University of Southern California.

“After years and years of rooting for UCLA … it was, psychologically, an interesting transition to move to USC,” he says, with a laugh.

But the crosstown university proved to be a good fit. A 23-year member of the faculty, Gillman was an award-winning professor of political science, history and law and then dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

In June 2013, he moved to UCI. As provost and executive vice chancellor, Gillman served as chief academic and operating officer, working closely with the vice chancellors and deans, as well as with the university librarian and the chief executive officer of the UC Irvine Medical Center. He was named interim chancellor on July 1, 2014.

It was in the 1970s, though, at his alma mater, that the seeds were sown for Gillman’s life in academia. “UCLA was where I fell in love with this world of inquiry and discovery and service,” says the father of two and husband of Ellen Ruskin-Gillman M.A. ’83, Ph.D. ’89. “By the time I was a sophomore, I came to the conclusion that if I could figure out a way to have a career that allowed me to stay within this world, I would be a very lucky person.”