Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

San Francisco State U. Names New President

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

San Francisco State U. Names New President

Article excerpt

A veteran leader of public institutions who considers himself well-equipped and experienced in responding to shrinking state appropriations has been named president of San Francisco State University.

Dr. Leslie Wong, who is currently president of Northern Michigan University, is expected to begin at SFSU on August 1. He will succeed Dr. Robert Corrigan, who is retiring.

A California native, Wong grew up in Oakland. "I'm anxious to get started," he says.

Wong will inherit a school that, along with 22 sister campuses making up the California State University system, has sustained multiple tuition hikes since a state budget crisis began in 2008 resulting in continual funding cuts.

At NMU, Wong became battle-tested while steering the 10,000-student school through eight straight years of budget cuts totaling a 33 percent drop in the annual appropriation from the state of Michigan.

He recalls that, when he first assumed the NMU presidency in 2004, "we were greeted with a 30 percent proposed cut for that year alone, and, if we hadn't worked to convince" budget-slashing lawmakers to reconsider the steep proposal, NMU would have suffered an overall loss of 63 percent by now.

Under Wong's watch, NMU grew its fundraising and grants, including receipt of a record $5 million philanthropic gift to enhance its ability to recruit high-achieving students. "If (institutional) priorities are right, people are willing" to make donations, he says.

One of the most diverse four-year universities in the country, SFSU enrolls 29,000-plus students; more than 60 percent are ethnic minorities. About 41 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty are minorities.

"The diversity is clearly a resource and asset we can do many things with," says Wong, who credits the high numbers to Corrigan, whose presidency spanned nearly a quarter-century. Corrigan is one of this year's winners of the John Hope Franklin award, an annual recognition for excellence in higher education sponsored by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.

California State University trustee Roberta Achtenberg, chair of the presidential search committee, says Wong brings "a strong record of accomplishments, academic experience and exceptional leadership skills. …

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