March 15, 1999 Vol. III, No. 12

President Wilson Will Resign to Head New England Foundation

Interim President Likely, Though Chancellor's Office Says New Hire Could Arrive by January 1

After six and a half years as president of Cal State Northridge, Blenda J. Wilson(right) announced March 2 that she will resign her position after the spring semester ends to become the first president and chief operating officer of Nellie Mae, New England's newest educational foundation.

The CSU Chancellor's Office estimated that it will take perhaps six months to name a new president, meaning a new chief executive could start work by January 1. Meanwhile, campus officials are expecting an interim president will be named and could arrive before Wilson departs.

Calling the move "a difficult personal decision," Wilson said she accepted the new post because it addresses "the most urgent issue of education in our time"-finding ways to assure that schools, especially in urban areas, prepare students for academic success in rigorous college programs.

Begun seven months ago, the Nellie Mae Foundation is among New England's largest charitable organizations focused exclusively on education. Through grants, research and policy initiatives, it aims to improve education in the region at all levels and for all ages, especially for under-served populations.

Wilson, who arrived in September 1992 as CSUN's third president, also was the first woman president in the campus' 40-year history and only the second African-American woman president appointed in the Cal State system. Previously she was the chancellor of the University of Michigan at Dearborn.

Under Cal State policy, the search for a new president will be led by a committee consisting of CSU Board of Trustees Chair William Hauck, CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and three trustees picked by Hauck. The committee ultimately is supposed to recommend at least three candidates to the full board.

The process also involves an advisory committee consisting of the head of the campus Faculty Senate, two faculty representatives, a support staff member, a student, a campus advisory board member, an alumnus, a senior campus administrator and a president from another CSU campus selected by the chancellor.

Under CSU policy, advisory committee members can suggest potential candidates, review and comment on candidate applications and participate in candidate interviews prior to the selection of the publicly announced finalists, who typically visit the campus. Wilson, meanwhile, said the chancellor has plans to visit CSUN at some point to consult with faculty and student leaders about the appointment of the next campus president.

Reed earlier expressed surprise at President Wilson's announcement and reflected on her tenure. "Blenda has made an indelible impression at CSUN. First, she had the courage and vision to keep classes open in the aftermath of the devastating 1994 earthquake, which caused nearly $400 million in damage to the campus.

"Second, in directing the renovation, she has not only overseen the physical restoration of the campus, but has worked hard to ensure that CSUN will be an enhanced learning environment for students of all backgrounds into the 21st century."

The 6.9 Northridge quake devastated the campus. But Wilson's determination to bring the campus back and her slogan of that time-"Not just backŠbut better"-led to its reopening four weeks after the earthquake and only two weeks later than the original planned start of the spring semester. (right - President Wilson and her executive officers meet in a tend immediately after the Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake.)

The reopening has been followed by five years of demolition and reconstruction in accord with a campus master plan. Other landmarks of the Wilson administration have included:

The past years also have been marked by a series of controversies, the most heated of which was the decision to cut four men's intercollegiate sports for reasons of budget and gender equity. After continued community protests, the sports were later reinstated. Other controversies brewed over the activities of the campus move crew and still-unresolved plans for a new football stadium somewhere on campus.

In her inaugural address, delivered April 30, 1993, Wilson noted, "The issue which demands our most urgent attentionŠwill be creating a cohesive definition and community and individual dignity within our richly multicultural environment."

The president's championing of diversity, free speech, student-centered education, and minority and other first- generation college students also have been hallmarks of her administration.

-John Kroll

"The issue which demands our most urgent attentionŠ will be creating a cohesive definition and community and individual dignity within our richly multicultural environment."

-Blenda J. Wilson, President
(inaugural address, 1993)

March 15, 1999

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