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June 29, 1998

University of Washington dean tapped for key administrative post at UCSC

John B. Simpson will assume duties as UCSC's executive vice chancellor in July
John Simpson

By Elizabeth Irwin

The next Executive Vice Chancellor for UC Santa Cruz brings extensive successful experience in academic administration, a distinguished background in psychology--and a lifelong affiliation with the University of California. Dr. John B. Simpson will assume the position as of July 1. Currently the Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, he was selected following a national search to replace Dr. R. Michael Tanner, who has served in the position for more than nine years.

"We are delighted that John has accepted the invitation to join us," noted Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood. "He has demonstrated exceptional leadership in his present post, and we are excited by the addition of his energy and considerable talents to the UCSC team."

Speaking from his office in Seattle, Simpson expressed great enthusiasm for his upcoming appointment. "UC Santa Cruz is at the threshold of a very exciting period, with new opportunities for programmatic expansion. On a professional level, meeting the challenges of that kind of institution building--and especially, enjoying the privilege to work with such a dynamic and visionary chancellor--are powerful attractors. And on a personal level, my family and I are University of California alums. It is truly exciting to be back in the system...it's coming home."

Simpson leaves the University of Washington after a 23-year career that began in 1975 with his appointment as Assistant Professor of Psychology. He was appointed as Professor of Psychology in 1982, and since that time he has held various faculty and administrative positions, including service as Director of the Joint Physiology-Psychology Program, Head of the Behavioral Neuroscience Area, and Associate Dean for Computing, Facilities and Research, in the College of Arts and Sciences. He has served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 1995. Encompassing 42 departments or schools, as well as two museums and the performing center, the College of Arts and Sciences embraces four divisions with 900 faculty and 22,000 students.

UCSC's gain is a keenly felt loss for Simpson's colleagues at the University of Washington. Robin McCabe, Director of the School of Music, said, "We will mourn his departure. We have to be happy for him, and for Santa Cruz--but we will miss him." She added, "He has been a wonderful advocate; for example, in extremely lean times, he has been a very creative strategist in making bold proposals to increase the profile of the arts at the University of Washington."

This sentiment was echoed many times by faculty and administrators representative of the full spectrum of disciplines within the College of Arts and Sciences. Michael Halleran, Divisional Dean of the Arts and Humanities and former Chair of the Classics Department, noted, "John's great strength, simply put, is that he is a good leader. He is intellectually curious, knows how both to listen and to make decisions--and he's an awfully nice guy."

English Department Chair Shawn Wong emphasized that "no one works as hard or accepts more responsibility than John. He's been entirely supportive and encouraging--the best dean I've ever worked with. He'll be a fabulous executive vice chancellor." Another colleague and Chair of American Ethnic Studies, Ana Mari Cauce, noted, "What I will always most associate with John is a tremendous personal warmth, integrity, and decency. He is someone that really cares, both about education and about the people that go into making an educational institution work, whether they be staff, faculty, or administrative colleagues. He goes out of his way to make himself accessible and he listens. I can't begin to express how much he will be missed."

More than a scholar and an able administrator, Simpson has been a leader in ensuring diversity at the University of Washington, both in academic programming and among those he has hired. Cauce continues, "It's hard to think of one major accomplishment that John made to UW. Some would undoubtedly say it was the founding of the Humanities Center; others might point to the new Neurobiology major. I immediately think of the ethnic and gender diversity that he brought to his administrative team and Chair appointments." Overall, I think his key accomplishment was keeping the Arts and Sciences not only vital, but at the heart of the University of Washington during a time when there is growing emphasis on professionalization and narrow career-tracking."

Emphasizing Simpson's achievements in fostering both access and academic excellence, UW's Dean of Undergraduate Education Fred Campbell notes, "John has been a true academic leader at the University of Washington. He is deeply committed to providing access to the next generation of students, and he consistently works with faculty and chairs to promote the highest possible academic excellence."

Simpson plans to spend his first weeks in Santa Cruz getting to know the campus and his new colleagues. When asked about his expectations for his first activities, he responded, "I look forward to helping define the academic niches in which UCSC has, or is gaining, exceptional distinction. I see the potential for some very interesting academic planning, but I can't make any projections about specific directions the campus might take, until I've learned more. I want to get to know UC Santa Cruz from top to bottom, starting with the people."

Among those welcoming Simpson to his first days on the campus is the person whose office he will fill. Michael Tanner will continue for a brief transition period, helping to orient the new executive vice chancellor. "John Simpson's many strengths are a good match for UCSC," Tanner noted. "He will bring to the campus a solid academic and administrative background with the broad perspective of someone accustomed to working in a large institution. I predict his great success."

Simpson graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a B.A. in psychology. He earned master's and doctoral degrees in neurobiology and behavior at Northwestern University. Prior to his arrival at the University of Washington, he worked for two years at the University of Pennsylvania as a research associate of the Institute of Neurological Sciences and a lecturer in the department of psychology. He has served as Visiting Professor of Physiology at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine and at the Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to service on numerous academic committees and in the Academic Senate at the University of Washington, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Pilchuck Glass School and the Intiman Theater Company and is a director of the Henry Art Gallery.

Simpson's research is in neuroendocrinology, the study of how the brain and hormones interact. Specifically, he is interested in the role of brain and endocrine control in the body's ability to regulate body fluids and the cardiovascular system. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society for Neuroscience, and the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.

Simpson will move to the area with his wife, Diane. They have two adult children, Matthew (29) and Melissa (26). Simpson's previous connection to the University of California is as an alumnus and visiting professor. In fact, numerous members of the Simpson family are graduates of the University of California, including his grandmother (UCB), his grandfather (UCSF), his father (UCB), his mother (UCLA), three sisters (two, UCB, and one, UCLA), his wife (UCSB), and a daughter (UCSB).

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