Courtesy of Richard Lin
Courtesy of Richard Lin

Chancellor Timothy White officially resigned from his position on Dec. 31, 2012, leaving his post as UCR’s leader of four years to spearhead the California State University system. In his wake, he leaves what many in the campus community see as a lasting legacy that ranks among the most fondly remembered UCR chancellors.

Among Chancellor White’s many accomplishments since he took office in 2008 are his pursuit of the accreditation of the School of Medicine, addressing student demonstrations and protest guidelines, encouraging greater discussions of campus diversity through the Chancellor’s Diversity Education Program, strengthening community bonds with weekly Friday Letters, and launching the School of Public Policy—all during a period of diluted state funds for the UC system.

The momentous ripples of achievement do not include the impressionable marks that Chancellor White left on many friends, companions and even strangers. The Highlander took a glimpse at Chancellor White’s last few weeks in office, where he reflected on his fondest memories at UCR and expressed his parting words for the campus.

From the start

Upon first stepping on campus, Chancellor White summed up his first impressions of UCR as a “diamond in the rough.” At the onset, Chancellor White made it his goal to invest in strategic communications, with hopes of increasing UCR’s national visibility as a campus. White would later aid in the development of various departments, such as media relations, video production and creative design services.

When comparing UCR today with his first impression of the campus, Chancellor White used the term “swagger,” and defined the word as civility, compassion, confidence and destination. “Maybe [swagger] was all here when I got here, but I have enough evidence and enough people to say that it wasn’t. So I certainly know that it is here today and I’m actually very proud about that intangible piece of us—how we feel about ourselves and each other, this place and what it means to our society,” stated White.

Culture and diversity

As an Argentine native, Chancellor White brought with him a diverse background. A product of California’s higher education system, White attended Diablo Valley Community College, Fresno State, Cal State Hayward and UC Berkeley, where he earned his doctorate in exercise physiology. Prior to heading UCR, White was president of the University of Idaho from 2004 to 2008.

“I think he’s a great representation of diversity and reaching unattainable goals. There’s no words to describe his heart and commitment to students and his community. In doing so, he strengthened bonds between the city and university by furnishing a symbiotic relationship,” stated Clara Vera, staff employee in Hinderaker Hall.

As the fifth most diverse campus in the nation, UCR has pushed for an open campus climate through the Chancellor’s Diversity Education Program. The program is a six-month course, where students gain the skills to apply a diverse education in a workplace environment.

Second-year graduate student of mathematics Aaron Jones thought fondly of his first encounter with Chancellor White, during a National Collegiate Athletic Association meeting in 2008. “[The] NCAA meeting is held every year and it invites a lot of members from the community. He’d only been working [as chancellor] for a few months and he invited all of us to a room to meet us. He introduced himself as ‘Hey I’m Tim, what’s your major?’ He showed…an interest in students in terms of who we are and being hospitable to our needs.”

Chancellor White also established connections with the Barbara and Culver Center of the Arts in downtown Riverside, where UCR has used the interactive art space to showcase student exhibits and works.

Efforts for community outreach

Following a frustrating rejected accreditation bid in 2011, UCR was able to obtain the funding it needed to establish its medical school in 2012, thanks in large part to the support of local hospitals and private organizations. “Under his guidance, UCR can now happily state that it has established a public medical school against all odds, which is an impeccable accomplishment and milestone for UCR and future students,” stated ASUCR President Liam Dow.

In the same sense, Chancellor White further connected with the campus through his much beloved weekly Friday Letters. “In retrospect, I didn’t realize it in the front end, but one of the more powerful things in having people understand and feel connected to us was the Friday Letters. Once I realized that, I made sure that I never lost focus about what I was trying to do there,” said Chancellor White.

“I mean I started them for a different purpose, almost a selfish purpose. Forcing myself to share my thoughts about the community once a week, about what’s on my mind. Really telling our story in different ways…helped people realize that ‘Whoa, UCR has an amazing family and I want to be part of that.’” From his earliest emails dating back to 2009, Chancellor White reflected on the importance of communication through his letters.

Regents meeting, free speech and protest guidelines

UCPD Chief of Police John Cook reflected on one of his most impressionable moments of Chancellor White, which occurred during the UC Regents meeting on UCR’s campus in January 2012, at the same time a student demonstration was taking place. “I had a moment where I kind of understood the world from his eyes because it’s always easy to look at it as a police officer…I watched the chancellor take into consideration the police, students and the regents side and I thought to myself, ‘That’s a man who understands leadership, management and is very good at it,’” he said.

On Jan. 19, 2012, members of the UC community protested against continuing tuition hikes and the perceived privatization of higher education in California.

“It’s a real…pushed-back kind of experience and…my regret is that I didn’t communicate in advance to this campus….to expect a large group of people, that may have nothing to do with our campus but folks who are interested in our topics plus law enforcement. You know at one hand you could say, ‘Yeah I regret that happened,’ but what I would regret is if we did not respond quickly and properly when the situation arose,” stated White.

Prior to the UC Board of Regents’ meeting, the release of strict UCR protest guidelines led to immense outcry from the student body and faculty alike. The guidelines were ultimately removed, yet the implications were perceived as a negative reflection of UCR leadership.

“Although the release of the protest guidelines [was] unwise, when it came to light, I said ‘That was a mistake, we’re pulling them down.’ I guess I am really an idealist and a pretty pathologically opportunistic person, but I’m not naive and I do know that mistakes happen,” said White.

As one of his final acts as chancellor, White released a set of “Guiding Principles to Protest” in December 2012, which highlighted the core values of free speech at UCR.

UCR: “Living the Promise”

Through the implementation of the strategic action plan, UCR 2020: the Path to Preeminence, Chancellor White set specific goals for UCR in the areas of academic excellence, civic engagement and campus climate. The plan was compiled by Chancellor White and nearly 140 students, staff, alumni and faculty members.

“What I think we are so uniquely positioned to do is to bring in very bright students, but not for reasons not of their own doing, despite not having all of the opportunities in elementary and middle school…but be given the opportunity to flourish and blossom,” said Chancellor White at his farewell reception in December. “So we’ve gone about our work, we’ve rolled up our sleeves together, we have lived the promise together, and I implore you to continue to live up to your individual promise to make this institution proud.”

During the reception, Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Peter Hayashida announced the establishment of a student scholarship endowment fund, which was dedicated to Timothy and Karen White. As a parting gift, he was presented with a photograph of the UCR campus taken by Ansel Adams in the 1960s. Also during the event, Dow bestowed a hand-grip exerciser to Chancellor White, which would serve as a reminder of the thousands of hands he shook of graduating students at commencement ceremonies.

On the day of his exit interview with the Highlander, Chancellor White highlighted the sudden rain storm at UCR, which was quickly followed by a rainbow that leapt from the Interdisciplinary Building to the Box Springs Mountains. In an analogy for embracing both the changing weather conditions and life’s obstacles, White said, “To recognize how you deal with those dark moments really is…the test of being a highlander [and] a productive member of society, to come even closer together during the hard times when we really need each other.”

The campus he leaves today

At his farewell reception, Chancellor White addressed the state of the university. “As you can tell, leaving is difficult, very difficult, but like that All-State commercial says, ‘UCR is in great hands.’ But I thank you for most importantly…leaving an enveloped and proud mark on me, one that has made me, I think, a better and wiser person and for that I am eternally grateful.”

When asked about his greatest accomplishment as chancellor of UCR, White explained that it is still on its way. “I think my greatest joy has yet to be at UCR. I don’t think I’ve experienced it yet. I think it’s what our graduates and students will do for this country,” said Chancellor White.