UA Journey

1973-1977 Robert W. Hiatt

Photo of President Robert Hiatt

Dr. Robert W. Hiatt assumed the presidency of the University of Alaska upon the retirement of Dr. Wood in 1973. In the first year of his administration Dr. Hiatt initiated work on the formulation of an Academic Development Plan, a blueprint for the future growth of the university. He traveled extensively in Alaska, visiting each unit of the University system. Seeking further to extend university programs to all areas of Alaska, he moved to complete the administrative decentralization of the university.

In September 1975, enrollment fell to its lowest level since 1967. That same year saw the restructuring and decentralization of the university system and the expansion of the community college system.

In 1975, President Hiatt reorganized and decentralized the University of Alaska system, and launched an ambitious plan to expand the community college system throughout rural Alaska. Hiatt's new organizational chart abolished the position of "provost," the chief executive officer slot for the Fairbanks Campus. The 1975 reorganization placed the three large university campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau under the control of individual chancellors. In February 1977 President Hiatt was forced to resign after the university announced it faced an estimated cash shortfall of up to $10 million, and could go broke within two months unless bailed out immediately by the state government. Poor billing and accounting practices, a faulty new computer system, and the failure of a university bond issue in November 1976 - the first time that Alaskan voters had ever rejected a university bond request - brought on the fiscal crisis. Alaska governor Jay Hammond, the first University of Alaska graduate to occupy the governor's mansion, maintained that the financial crisis began with the university's too-rapid expansion in the late 1960's.