On August 1, Michael R. Gottfredson, formerly the executive vice chancellor and provost and a professor of criminology, law, and society at the University of California at Irvine, began his tenure as the University of Oregon’s seventeenth president in its 136-year history. His appointment, announced on June 15 by the State Board of Higher Education after a unanimous vote in his favor, capped an accelerated search following the firing of previous president Richard Lariviere in November. (See “Stunned UO Says Goodbye to Lariviere, Welcomes Berdahl Back,” Spring 2012.)
Gottfredson has held the number-two spot at Irvine since 2000. There he led a major expansion of the university’s infrastructure, blending state, campus, and private support. He helped create the California Institute for Telecommunications and Technology, including the construction of a $55-million research facility, and the establishment of a new public law school. His tenure at Irvine was also distinguished by leading efforts to significantly raise enrollment, increase numbers of women and under-represented minority faculty members and administrators, expand degree programs, and enhance the undergraduate experience within a large research university.
The accelerated search process resulting in Gottfredson’s appointment was conducted by a twenty-two-member committee led by state board member Allyn Ford; it included another board member, UO faculty and staff members, alumni, students, and business leaders. The committee advanced three candidates to OUS chancellor George Pernsteiner, who, based on the committee’s recommendations, presented Gottfredson to the board as the sole finalist.
Anne Marie Levis, MBA ’96, incoming president of the University of Oregon Alumni Association (UOAA), served on the committee and introduced Gottfredson at a UOAA board meeting just hours after the vote. “He was the final candidate we met,” she says, “and for me, there was little question that he was the right person for the job. When the committee developed our ‘wish list’ for our next president, we joked that we were being unrealistic. After meeting Gottfredson, I was no longer worried that we were aiming too high. President Gottfredson is sincere, witty, insightful, thoughtful, and authentic. He’s the real deal.”
Robert Berdahl, who stepped in as interim president following Lariviere’s departure, has high praise for Gottfredson. “He is outstanding,” says Berdahl. “Highly respected, smart, thoughtful. He will be a great president for the UO.”
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber calls Gottfredson “the right person for the job, and the type of leader who can balance the UO’s needs and plans with those of the entire state.”
Figuring out how to strike that balance promises to be among the first challenges facing the new president, who is expected to continue the push for an independent governing board and changes to the University’s funding system that were initiated by Lariviere and supported by Berdahl.
“The issues that Oregon faces with respect to financing . . . are issues that are now prominent at institutions of higher learning throughout this country,” says Gottfredson. “They are issues of how to finance the public mission of this great university, how to guarantee our public trust and our covenant with the people in the face of the withdrawal of state support. So we don’t hesitate, we don’t falter, we don’t take a back seat with respect to our commitment to public higher education.”
Previously, Gottfredson spent fifteen years at the University of Arizona, where he served as interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, vice provost, and vice president of undergraduate education. He also held positions at the Claremont Graduate School in California, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the State University of New York at Albany, where he earned his MA and PhD.
A respected figure in the field of criminology, he has remained active academically throughout nearly three decades as an administrator, and is coauthor, with Travis Hirschi, of the 1990 book A General Theory of Crime, which correlates criminality with the absence of self-control and remains a standard in the field.