UC Irvine Leader Is Named

Times Staff Writer

A top University of California administrator was named Thursday as UC Irvine’s fifth chancellor by the regents, who handed him the task of leading the up-and-coming school into higher education’s elite.

Dr. Michael V. Drake, 54, an ophthalmologist and UC’s vice president for health affairs, takes over at UC Irvine on July 1. He said he didn’t apply for the position and didn’t know he was a candidate for the $350,000-a-year job until two weeks ago, when he was asked to interview with the search committee.

Ralph Cicerone, UC Irvine’s chancellor for seven years, is leaving to take over as president of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

“A class act,” Cicerone said of his successor. Drake “has a tremendous sense of humor and very high standards.”

Drake will head a campus that is Orange County’s second-largest employer, with a budget of $1.4 billion. His mission will be to build on Cicerone’s legacy, which includes increasing the number of students and faculty, attracting more research funds and increasing the school’s national profile.


Drake’s task will not be easy, with the state facing huge deficits and talking about cutbacks instead of expansion, forcing schools to tap private donors.

UC Irvine already is one of the UC system’s fastest-growing campuses. A draft plan calls for enrollment to continue to increase, from 24,000 students to 32,000 by 2014 and for an increase in the proportion of graduate students. The plan also calls for hiring 400 professors and creating research centers and institutes on stem cells, international studies and other subjects.

UC Irvine officials have been pushing hard for a law school, which they believe is necessary for UC Irvine to be seen as one of the nation’s top universities, but the regents have so far rejected the idea.

“The challenge for me is to continue the good work Chancellor Cicerone has done, to work with the community, helping elevate the contribution UCI makes,” said Drake, who will become the UC system’s second African American chancellor.

Drake grew up in Sacramento. His father was a psychiatrist, and his mother a social worker and teacher. Drake received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford and his medical degree from UC San Francisco.

He was a professor of ophthalmology at UC San Francisco before becoming an administrator there. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences’ prestigious Institute of Medicine. He was appointed vice president for health affairs for the UC system in 2000, overseeing the schools of medicine, dentistry, public health and veterinary medicine, among others.

A news release announcing Drake’s appointment said there were 650 prospects for the job. No names were made public.

Drake’s appointment came as a surprise on campus.

He “certainly wasn’t on any of the rumor lists,” said William Parker, dean of graduate studies.

Some faculty members said they were concerned about Drake’s lack of experience running a university with multiple schools.

“He’s going to have to articulate a vision for what he’d like to see [UC Irvine] become and get students, faculty and the community behind him,” Parker said.

Gabriel Ayass, student body president and a member of the search committee, said he was worried that the bulk of Drake’s career had been spent on issues involving graduate students.

“I know he’s a professor, but in my eyes doesn’t have a lot of experience in dealing with [undergraduate] student needs,” Ayass said.

Drake is given credit for helping gain approval for UC Irvine’s Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community, which started last year to train medical students to work with Latinos.

Drake said that he and UC President Robert C. Dynes had talked on several occasions about his future, but that he was surprised when Dynes said he wanted him on the short list of candidates.

“I was thinking of this a little bit later on, not quite this soon,” Drake said. But “this was a great chance to move from a focus on health sciences to an area where I’m involved also with business and computer science and dance and drama and history and art.”