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UC President Peltason Announces Retirement Plans : Education: Head of nine-campus system will leave office in October. He is praised for stabilizing financial situation.

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

Saying that “the work I signed on to do is essentially completed,” University of California President Jack W. Peltason on Friday announced his intention to step down and asked the UC Board of Regents to begin looking for a successor.

Peltason said he plans to end his stewardship of the nine-campus, 162,000-student system Oct. 1, three years to the day since he took the job, because the university’s financial situation has stabilized. It is time, he said, to find a new leader to take the university into the next century.

“I want to make it clear . . . I’m not too old. I’m not too tired. I’m not mad. Everything’s fine,” the 71-year-old political scientist said. “It’s best for the university to pass the baton to the next person.”

Peltason, who remains on the faculty at UC Irvine, said he has not decided whether he will return to teaching or retire. But his wife, Suzie, said she was looking forward to a little rest and relaxation.

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“I’ve been pushing it,” she said of her husband’s retirement announcement, “because I’m anxious to have time . . . while we’re young enough to still play shuffleboard on a cruise boat.”

Peltason’s announcement sets in motion the search for the 17th UC president. Board of Regents Chairman Howard H. Leach said he will appoint a five-member search committee next week to begin a process that several regents said should be international in scope. According to policy, Leach and Gov. Pete Wilson also will serve on the committee.

According to several regents, the short list of candidates from inside the system includes UC San Diego Chancellor Richard C. Atkinson, UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien and UC Provost Walter E. Massey. UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, who along with Atkinson was considered for the presidency in 1992, may also be in the running for the $243,500-a-year job.

Regent John G. Davies, a San Diego attorney, called UC experience an advantage for candidates. But Leach maintained that “there is no heir-apparent.”

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Asked to comment on speculation that Massey has been groomed for the job, Leach said: “He would certainly be a qualified candidate. But we have no list yet. I wouldn’t exclude any (of the chancellors).”

Berkeley’s Tien, who once worked closely with Peltason as an administrator at UC Irvine, was in the audience as Peltason made his announcement. Later, he declined to say whether he was interested in the presidency.

“This is Jack’s day,” he said. “It’s premature to talk about this.”

Regent William T. Bagley repeated his contention that Colin L. Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would make an ideal UC president.

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“I can’t think of anyone better than Colin Powell,” said Bagley, an attorney and former legislator from San Rafael. Among other things, he said, Powell is the right age. “You don’t want somebody 70. You don’t want somebody 30. You want somebody who’ll be around for five or six years.”

Peltason, whose tenure at UC coincided with the loss of about $300 million in state revenues, made a point of thanking the governor and the state Legislature.

“Despite the toughest economic times since the Depression, (they) buffered the university against the worst and thereby enabled us to remain the best,” he said.

“Jack Peltason has led the university with wisdom, strength, patience, kindness and unfailing good humor,” Leach said. “We truly got the senior statesman the university needed.”

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Vice Chairman Meredith J. Khachigian told Peltason: “The University of California is a better place today because of you.”

Peltason took the helm of the beleaguered university system in the wake of controversy over a large severance package received by his predecessor, David P. Gardner.

University officials said Peltason will receive a regular retirement package, calculated at 38.5% of his annual salary per year. He will also receive a one-time lump sum severance payment of $116,700 and a supplemental payment of $2,029 a month for 11 years that was granted to make up for other retirement benefits he lost when he came to the university late in his career.

Officials said Peltason has given up his rights to deferred compensation, additional supplemental retirement and a housing allowance while president totaling $350,000. Peltason has asked the regents to reallocate that sum to student scholarships.

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When he became president, Peltason, a respected constitutional scholar, had been Irvine chancellor for eight years and was a past president of the American Council on Education, a lobbying group for higher education.

Although some questioned the effectiveness of his low-key style, Peltason was praised for keeping the confidence of the UC faculty despite two years without cost-of-living raises, followed by a year with a 3.5% pay cut.

Peltason’s wife told reporters that she had lobbied hard for her husband, who was past retirement age when he accepted the presidency, to step down.

“I want to have time to go and visit the grandchildren,” she said.

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