Campus embraces news of Blumenthal's appointment

George Blumenthal and his wife, Kelly Weisberg, attend a breakfast September 21 at University House for about 40 academic and student leaders. The gathering was the first on campus for Chancellor Blumenthal since being named permanent chancellor on Wednesday, September 19. (Photo: Guy Lasnier)
Chancellor Blumenthal welcomes freshman Jonathan Cornejo and his parents at the Merrill College move-in on Friday. (Photo: Carolyn Lagattuta)
Chancellor Blumenthal answers a question at a press conference with UC President Robert Dynes following the appointment. (Photo: Karin Higgins)

As the news of George Blumenthal's appointment as chancellor spread across campus Wednesday, cheers erupted in hallways, high-fives were exchanged, and the campus rejoiced at the selection.

In Kerr Hall, about 30 staff members from several units, including the Chancellor's Office, took a break and gathered in a conference room to listen to the audio broadcast of the UC Regents meeting. The Regents voted to approve Blumenthal's selection Wednesday afternoon, and when the vote was announced, the celebrations began.

"It was a lot of fun--there was clapping, shouting, and high-fives," said Paula Towle, manager of the Chancellor's Office. "There was a lot of joy. It's just thrilling."

During the busy lunch hour in Terra Fresca Restaurant at University Center, a woman shouted the news across the room after receiving a text message. "She held up her phone and shouted, 'It's George!,' " recalled Liz Sandoval, director of development for the Humanities Division. "It was so cute--everyone started holding up their phones, and people were shouting across the room. It was a big celebration. People were very happy."

Earlier in the day, librarians monitoring the web cast of the Regents meeting heard UC Regents Chair Richard Blum inadvertently leak the news when he referred to the pending announcement of Blumenthal's appointment. "They rushed in to tell me, and there was a lot of excitement," said University Librarian Virginia Steel. "People were really pleased. The campus has had an opportunity to work with George for 14 months, and we have a lot of respect for him. People feel he's just part of UCSC."

Prior to his appointment, Blumenthal served as acting chancellor following the death in June 2006 of Chancellor Denice Denton.

Economics professor Lori Kletzer was in her office when she learned the news via email and promptly joined colleagues in the hallway. "Everybody was pleased," said Kletzer. "We are all very lucky. We're ready to move forward."

Connie Croker, a library budget analyst and a new member of the Staff Advisory Board, said she, too, was thrilled by the news. "It's exciting, because people really wanted it to happen," she said. "I heard on the bus that there was dancing in the Psychology Department. And I know the Staff Advisory Board is really looking forward to working with George Blumenthal."

Faculty from every academic discipline embraced the news of Blumenthal's appointment, according to Academic Senate Chair Quentin Williams, a professor of Earth sciences. "I've talked to a lot of faculty, and people are ecstatic," said Williams. "To some extent, the news was anticipated and hoped for, but you never know until it happens. Now we'll hit the ground running. This is a chance for us to really move forward on achieving our promise and potential."

Underscoring Williams' comments, theater arts professor Kathy Foley was beaming as she said, "People in the arts and humanities have been acting, praying, singing, and dancing that someone such as George would represent us!"

Ted Holman, associate professor of chemistry, expressed the sentiments of many when he said the news was welcome on "two levels," because Blumenthal is "a known quantity, and he's a great guy."

Social Sciences Dean Sheldon Kamieniecki said he looks forward to building on the campus's recent efforts to raise its profile and increase fundraising. "We did fairly well under unstable conditions, and I think the collective feeling now is, 'My goodness, what can we do with stable conditions?' " he said.

By Friday morning, Blumenthal had received 250 email messages from well-wishers across the country and abroad. "My wife and I got home last night and had 15 phone messages on the machine," said Blumenthal, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics who joined the UCSC faculty 1972 "To be honest, I'm a bit uncomfortable when it's all about me. I prefer it when it's all about the campus, but it has been very heartwarming. I must say, it's been heartwarming."