Lawrence Pitts, UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, will step down from his position this February, university officials announced Thursday.
In his almost three years as the university’s top academic advisor, Pitts worked in an environment of shrinking state funding, which contributed to a more than 80 percent increase in tuition and increased obstacles to retaining university faculty during his tenure.
“I think that helping to work through the very serious budget challenges was challenging — to say rewarding is a little extreme because it’s been so difficult,” Pitts said of his time as UC provost. “But I was able to work extremely actively with administrators and faculty to make the university’s dwindling resources fit the most critical needs for the students and faculty.”
Pitts was appointed interim provost in February 2009 and became the permanent provost in March 2010.
Before his time ends with the university, Pitts said he intends to continue exploring the option of online education. He will also work on a new academic pay plan that would reward faculty based on factors such as grants or teaching executive courses.
During his tenure, Pitts headed a task force that released a report recommending a large-scale restructuring of the university’s pension fund. The report projected a $20 billion deficit in the pension program if it was not restructured after a 1990 decision by the UC Board of Regents to stop making contributions to the pension plan in order to save money.
At the time he was offered the position as provost, Pitts had recently retired after serving as chair of the UC Academic Senate and professor emeritus of neurosurgery at UC San Francisco.
“This was not in my plan,” Pitts said. “I thought this position was just too interesting. It’s been a real roller-coaster ride, challenging but interesting. I’m happy that I did it.”
Pitts said that when he accepted the position, he had planned to serve as provost for three years, at which point he would re-enter retirement. He will stay in the position until a replacement is found. Although Pitts estimates that this process will take several months, he said he is confident that there will be a roster of great candidates for the position.
In a letter informing the UC Board of Regents of Pitts’ future departure, UC President Mark Yudof reflected on his time working with Pitts.
“I am and will always be deeply grateful for his advice and counsel, his dedication to the University and its mission, and most of all his friendship and support,” Yudof said in the letter.
Once he re-enters retirement, Pitts said he is looking forward to spending more time with his six-year-old granddaughter and family in Chicago, and will enjoy having more time to travel with his wife. He also said that he might want to work with Habitat for Humanity in the Bay Area in order to improve his carpentry skills.