Dr. Michael Drake Appointed as First Black UC President

Through a unanimous vote, the UC Board of Regents appointed Dr. Michael V. Drake as the next president of the UC system at a virtual teleconference meeting held on Tuesday, July 7. Drake succeeds UC President Janet Napolitano as the first Black person to hold the position and is set to start on Aug. 1, 2020. 

Drake, who completed his M.D. and fellowship in ophthalmology from UC San Francisco, most recently served as president of The Ohio State University. Before that, Drake held multiple positions in the UC system, first serving as the systemwide Vice President of Health Affairs and later as Chancellor of UC Irvine.

In a press statement released by the UCOP, Drake was touted for his accomplishments in these roles. As Chancellor of UC Irvine, Drake oversaw a more than 18 percent increase in four-year graduation rates and increases in undergraduate enrollment and diversity. 

At Ohio State, Drake’s tenure saw “record-high applications and graduation rates, groundbreaking research and strong donor support,” according to the statement. He spearheaded several programs focused on student access and affordability, such as a tuition guarantee program and increased grants to lower income students.

“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!”

Napolitano announced her plans to retire from her position as UC President on Sept. 18, 2019. The UC Board of Regents established a special committee soon after to begin the ten-month process to find a replacement that met the strict criteria they established.

“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,” Napolitano said. “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.”

Napolitano’s seven-year term had success in a variety of policy initiatives. Under her administration, the UC Office of the President announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative in 2013 to commit UC buildings and vehicle fleets to having a net zero carbon footprint by 2025. In September of 2017, the UC system was the first university to sue President Donald Trump’s administration for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

However in 2017, the California State Auditor accused Napolitano’s office of hiding $175 million dollars in slush funds from the UC Board of Regents and the public. Additionally, Napolitano’s term saw mass protests by graduate students calling for a cost- of- living adjustment, which led to the mass firing of 74 UC Santa Cruz teaching assistants in March 2020 for participating in a grading strike. 

Drake and John Perez, chair of the UC Regents, will be hosting a live-streamed conversation at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, July 10 for Drake’s formal introduction to the UC community. Drake will officially take over as UC President on Aug. 1 in the midst of great social upheaval and a public health crisis due to COVID-19.

Photo taken by Susan Walsh for the Associated Press.