The University of California Board of Regents announced today the appointment of Dr. Michael Drake as the 21st president of UC’s world-renowned system of 10 campuses, five medical centers, three nationally affiliated labs, more than 280,000 students and 230,000 faculty and staff.
Drake has a long and distinguished career in higher education, most recently as president of The Ohio State University from 2014 until this past week. Prior to his six years at OSU, his entire academic career had been at UC, including as chancellor of UC Irvine for nine years, from 2005 to 2014, and as the systemwide vice president for health affairs from 2000 to 2005.
Drake received his A.B. from Stanford University and his residency, medical degree, and fellowship in ophthalmology from UC San Francisco. He subsequently spent more than two decades on the faculty of the UCSF School of Medicine, including as the Steven P. Shearing Professor of Ophthalmology.
Under his leadership, Drake greatly enhanced UC Irvine’s reputation as a premier university. UC Irvine rose to join the top 10 public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list and was ranked by Times Higher Education as the No. 1 university in the U.S. under 50 years old. During his tenure at the campus, the four-year graduation rate increased by more than 18 percent, while undergraduate enrollment and diversity significantly increased. In addition, Drake oversaw the establishment of new schools of law and education as well as programs in public health, nursing and pharmacy.
Drake’s tenure at OSU was marked by record-high applications and graduation rates, groundbreaking research and strong donor support. He established several successful programs to increase student access and affordability, including a tuition guarantee program; enhanced scholarships covering the cost of attendance; and increased grants to support middle- and lower-income students. In fact, OSU’s need-based financial aid increased by more than $200 million between 2015 and 2020.
“Much has changed in the 15 years since I was given the privilege of becoming chancellor at UC Irvine, but not my absolute belief in this great University and its time-honored mission,” Drake said. “I look forward to working with the regents, chancellors, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our broader community as we, together, guide the University through the challenging times ahead. Brenda and I are thrilled to be back. Fiat Lux!”
Drake has published numerous articles and co-authored six books. He served as a reviewer for several medical journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science and the American Journal of Ophthalmology. Drake is a member of several national scientific and scholarly societies, and has received various awards for teaching, public service, mentoring and research. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the UCSF School of Medicine’s Clinical Teaching Award, the Hogan Award for Laboratory Research, the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award for University Service, the UC Irvine Medal and the University of California Presidential Medal in recognition of his exemplary service to the University.
“Dr. Drake personifies the qualities we looked for in selecting a new president: He is committed to seeing the whole student and to supporting all our students. He recognizes the incalculable value of faculty and staff to the University’s mission, and he understands the importance of the public and private partnerships that help us achieve that mission,” said John Pérez, chair of the UC Board of Regents. “As the first person of color to serve as UC president, Dr. Drake returns to UC at an important point in the University’s journey. This is a homecoming the University of California is very excited to be celebrating early.”
Drake’s extensive public service experience includes various roles for the American Medical Association, the National Eye Institute, the Association of American Medical Colleges and multiple commissions on health in the state of California. He is a former chair of the board of directors of the Association of American Universities and currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. He is also the chair of the board of governors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a member of the American Talent Initiative Steering Committee and a member of the board of directors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Stepping down as president of the University of California is bittersweet, especially after seven wonderful, dynamic years, but I depart knowing Dr. Michael Drake will lead with experience and integrity, with the critical support and guidance of the UC Board of Regents,” said current UC President Janet Napolitano. “Michael has my full confidence, and I am excited to see how his fresh infusion of ideas and new perspectives will shape the University in the months and years ahead.”
The 10-month long search for the University’s next systemwide leader began in September after Napolitano announced she would leave UC in August 2020. The regents approved rigorous criteria to guide their search.
“UC faculty, staff and students repeatedly told us they want a president who will prioritize issues of equity and fairness and be a powerful advocate at the state and national level,” said Regent Gareth Elliott, chair of the special committee in charge of the presidential search. “When we needed the right person to steward UC’s global reputation, it turns out we didn't have to look too far from home. I am very proud of this thorough and inclusive search, and I’m delighted it resulted in such a great match with Dr. Drake.”
“We are thrilled that Dr. Drake has chosen to return to UC at this pivotal moment in the midst of profound global and national change,” said professor Kum-Kum Bhavnani, chair of UC’s Faculty Academic Senate and the Academic Advisory Committee. “President-designate Drake’s demonstrated commitment to undergraduate and graduate students and the work of faculty, understanding of the needs of UC employees, his commitment to social mobility, and his intimate insights into diversity, policing and inclusion ensure UC will continue to be a leader in higher education nationally and internationally as the world enters a bold new era.”
“Participating in the search for the next UC president was a privilege that I did not take lightly,” said student regent Hayley Weddle, who also served on the special committee. “The top three qualities I was looking for in a new president were a proven record of success in promoting equity and access in higher education, a commitment to working closely with students as partners to address pressing issues such as basic needs and sexual harassment, and a clear vision to advance UC’s public service mission. President-designate Drake has all of these qualities and more, and I am excited to welcome him back to the University of California.”
The Board approved Drake’s salary at $890,000. Pending an academic personnel review, Drake will be appointed as a tenured professor at UCSF.
Drake, 69, and his wife, Brenda, have two grown sons and four grandchildren.