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University Of California Will Have Its First Black President

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The University of California Board of Regents have announced the appointment of Michael V. Drake, M.D., as the 21st president of UC's world-renowned system. (UC Newsroom)
By Sarah Ruiz-Grossman
Black Voices

The next president of the University of California system will be Dr. Michael Drake, the first Black person in the role in the school system’s 152-year history.

The University of California’s board of regents announced Tuesday that the 69-year-old physician and recent head of Ohio State University had been appointed UC’s 21st president.

Drake, who also serves as chairman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Board of Governors, will be replacing Janet Napolitano, the former Obama-era secretary of homeland security, who announced in 2019 that she would be stepping down from the role.

Drake will preside over some 280,000 students and 230,000 faculty and staff who are part of the 10-campus university system, including the prestigious UC Berkeley and UCLA. He is the first person of color to be UC’s president, according to the chair of the board of regents.

The new president has a long history with the UC system, having been chancellor at UC Irvine from 2005 to 2014 and previously serving as vice president for UC’s health affairs for five years.

Drake also got much of his education in the university system: He completed his undergraduate degree at Stanford University, but got his medical degree from UC San Francisco and did his residency in ophthalmology. He then served on the faculty of UCSF’s school of medicine for over 20 years.

The new president will be spearheading the massive university system as it takes on concerns surrounding higher education and the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Drake “the leader we need to guide our world-class higher education system through this time of unprecedented challenge,” in a Tuesday statement, highlighting the need for higher education institutions to “remain open, accessible and inclusive, and emerge from this moment even more equitable than before.”

“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,” Drake said in a release from the university.