New Cal State Chief Named in Long Beach

Times Staff Writer

In a move that surprised much of the campus community, Curtis L. McCray, a Chaucerian scholar and president of the University of North Florida, was named Tuesday to succeed Stephen Horn as president of Cal State Long Beach.

“He comes from a very distinguished background,” said California State University Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds in announcing the selection. “He has achieved a great deal, both with academic development and with the community.”

Dale B. Ride, chairman of the Cal State Board of Trustees, said: "(McCray) has a magnetic personality and unbounded enthusiasm. We’ve got a real winner.”

In coming to Long Beach, the 50-year-old former English professor will be leaving a campus of 7,000 students to head one with nearly 35,000 students and a history of turbulence. Most recently, Long Beach campus officials in 1986 discovered an unexpected budget deficit of more than $1 million, requiring cutbacks and a $900,000 emergency bailout loan from the chancellor’s office.


The resulting furor ended with the Board of Trustees asking for Horn’s resignation last November after a presidency that spanned 17 years. Although the resignation does not officially take effect until July 1, Horn has been on leave since early February, campaigning for the congressional seat being vacated by Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach), who is Gov. George Deukmejian’s nominee for state treasurer.

Many campus insiders believed Horn’s likely successor would be John Beljan, the school’s vice president for academic affairs, who is generally credited with helping to guide the campus back to fiscal health.

At Tuesday’s press conference, McCray, among other things, praised Beljan.

“From a distance, it appeared that he played a very important role in a very (effective) way,” McCray said.


In addition, McCray stressed his desire to build good relations with the faculty--an area in which Horn had been severely criticized--as well as to maintain fiscal responsibility and build “bridges” with the community.

“The faculty feels that they need to be more involved,” said McCray, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Knox College in Illinois and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. “There is no substitute for the acting presence of the president on campus. I’m a Midwesterner--I tend to look people in the eye and give open answers.”

Ben Cunningham, president of the Cal State Long Beach faculty senate, said that although he expected Beljan’s selection, he hopes to get along well with McCray.

“We’re looking forward to a much more open campus then we ever had when Dr. Horn was president,” Cunningham said.


Strong Leader

Bud Newman, director of public relations at the Jacksonville, Fla., campus where McCray has been president since 1982, said McCray is perceived as a strong leader with an interest in the community.

“He has a very strong sense that the institution must be a vital part of the community,” Newman said.

McCray, who will be paid $103,500 a year in his new post, emerged from a five-month selection process that attracted 140 candidates. He is married and has three children.


June Cooper, who has been acting president since Horn’s departure but was not a candidate for the permanent job, endorsed McCray’s selection.

“I think it’s great,” she said, adding that “on July 1, my daughters get me back.”