Michael V. Drake, M.D. has been named president of the University of California, the first Black leader to head America’s top public research university system in 152 years. The University of California (UC) Board of Regents voted on the selection Tuesday. Drake, 69, and his wife, Brenda, have two grown sons and four grandchildren.
Drake succeeds Janet Napolitano, who will be stepping down after seven years.
“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,” said Napolitano in a statement.
As the the 21st president of UC’s system, Drake will head 10 campuses, five medical centers, three nationally affiliated labs, more than 280,000 students and 230,000 faculty and staff.
Drake has a long and distinguished career in higher education, most recently as president of The Ohio State University (OSU) from 2014 until this past week. Prior to his six years at OSU, his entire academic career has been at UC, including as chancellor of UC Irvine for nine years from 2005 to 2014 and as the system-wide vice president for health affairs from 2000 to 2005.
“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!”
Under his leadership, Drake greatly enhanced UC Irvine’s reputation as a premier university. UC Irvine rose to join the top 10 public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list and was ranked by Times Higher Education as the No. 1 university in the U.S. under 50 years old. During his tenure at the campus, the four-year graduation rate increased by more than 18 percent, while undergraduate enrollment and diversity significantly increased. In addition, Drake oversaw the establishment of new schools of law and education as well as programs in public health, nursing and pharmacy.
Drake’s tenure at OSU was marked by record-high applications and graduation rates, groundbreaking research and strong donor support. He established several successful programs to increase student access and affordability, including a tuition guarantee program; enhanced scholarships covering the cost of attendance; and increased grants to support middle- and lower-income students. In fact, OSU’s need-based financial aid increased by more than $200 million between 2015 and 2020.
“Dr. Drake personifies the qualities we looked for in selecting a new president: He is committed to seeing the whole student and to supporting all our students. He recognizes the incalculable value of faculty and staff to the University’s mission, and he understands the importance of the public and private partnerships that help us achieve that mission,” said John A. Pérez, chair of the UC Board of Regents. “As the first person of color to serve as UC president, Dr. Drake returns to UC at an important point in the University’s journey. This is a homecoming the University of California is very excited to be celebrating early.”
Drake received his A.B. from Stanford University and his residency, M.D., and fellowship in ophthalmology from UCSF. He subsequently spent more than two decades on the faculty of the UCSF School of Medicine, including as the Steven P. Shearing Professor of Ophthalmology.
“Participating in the search for the next UC president was a privilege that I did not take lightly,” said Student Regent Hayley Weddle, who also served on the Special Committee. “The top three qualities I was looking for in a new president were a proven record of success in promoting equity and access in higher education, a commitment to working closely with students as partners to address pressing issues such as basic needs and sexual harassment, and a clear vision to advance UC’s public service mission. President-designate Drake has all of these qualities and more, and I am excited to welcome him back to the University of California.”