Former U president to lead University of California system

Despite being called “directionally challenged” by some of his peers, former University President Mark Yudof seems to know where he’s headed next: west.

A search committee recommended Yudof, 63, to succeed Robert Dynes as president of the University of California system Thursday. Dynes announced his resignation in August after almost five years in the position.

Mark yudof

Current: chancellor of the University of Texas System
Previously: president of the University of Minnesota (1997-2002); professor, law school dean and executive vice president and vice provost at University of Texas-Austin (1971-1997)
Education: bachelor’s degree in political science ñ University of Pennsylvania, law degree ñ Law School of University of Pennsylvania

Source: University of Texas system

The system’s board of regents is expected to consider the recommendation at a meeting Thursday, said University of California spokesman Chris Harrington.

Yudof, who served as the University’s president from 1997-2002, currently heads the University of Texas System. Prior to his Minnesota stint, he was the law school dean at the University of Texas-Austin.

“He is, without question, one of the most outstanding leaders in public higher education today,” said H. Scott Caven Jr., chairman of the University of Texas System board of regents in a statement last Thursday.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said he worked with Yudof almost daily during his time at the University. He recalled Yudof as an upfront leader and a quick decision-maker.

The 10-campus California system includes five medical centers and three national laboratories. Its Berkeley campus is considered one of the most renowned public universities in the nation.

Yudof is currently one of the highest-paid university executives in the nation, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. His 2006-2007 salary was nearly double that of Dynes’.

The University of California presidential search committee isn’t commenting on a compensatory offer to Yudof.

University President Bob Bruininks said in an e-mail that he considers Yudof a personal friend and a “superb choice for one of the nation’s most important leadership positions in higher education.”

“The California University system could not have chosen a more experienced, successful, creative and qualified leader,” he said.

Yudof would be able to handle the pressure of the job, Pfutzenreuter said.

“He’ll surround himself with good people and that’s the key to success,” he said.

Pfutzenreuter said Yudof’s legacy can still be seen in Coffman Union and other University buildings.

“He really jump-started the physical renovation of the campus,” he said, adding Yudof founded Beautiful U Day.

To many, it may have seemed Yudof’s presidency was in constant conflict with then Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura over rising tuition and declining state support.

But Pfutzenreuter said Yudof sent him to help Ventura assemble his first state budget. Public institutions are always in need of additional state resources, he said.

“There’s always a little bit of tension,” Pfutzenreuter said. “But there wasn’t anything unique to that.”

And as for Yudof’s potential battles over state support with California’s governor?

“I think he’ll get along just fine with Arnold,” Pfutzenreuter said.