January 7, 1998

Komisar Resigns University of Alaska Presidency

January 7, 1998     NR 1-1998

Dr. Jerome B. Komisar, who has served as the eleventh president of the University of Alaska for nearly eight years, has told the Board of Regents he intends to step down from his position effective at the end of June this year.

Komisar, 60, who assumed the presidency in August 1990, said his plans for the future were still uncertain, but he is announcing his resignation now so the regents could begin the selection process for a successor.

Citing his term as university president as one of great personal and professional satisfaction, Komisar said, "The decade has moved with unbelievable speed and it often feels as if I arrived in Alaska only yesterday. But eight years, no matter how fruitful and satisfying, is a long time, granted the current fervor of university life and the intensity of work in the public sector."

Komisar took the university's chief leadership position in 1990, just three years after the institution had undergone a major and controversial restructuring that merged the system's 11 community colleges under the three, four-year campuses, and enabled the university to survive a $15 million state general fund budget cut.

"I had four major goals for the university when I came to Alaska," Komisar said. "To promote learning and research; to reduce reliance on state support by increasing university revenues from other sources; to rebuild and modernize the university's infrastructure; and, to make the university more cost effective. Significant progress has been made toward each of those goals."

During Komisar's presidency, the university expanded its federally supported programs, increased its land management efforts, initiated efforts to attract more private funds, and increased student revenues. As a result, the university has reduced its dependence on state revenues from 55% to 45% since 1990.
Komisar said he was proud of the university programs that have been strengthened under his leadership, the talent that has been attracted to the faculty and staff and the facilities that have been constructed and modernized. Longstanding deferred maintenance problems have begun to be addressed, and there has been considerable investment in instructional equipment and information technology. Existing student residence halls have been modernized and new residence halls have been constructed in Juneau and Anchorage.

"Increased federal support has been of major importance over the last decade, to the university and the state, both in providing research funding and in enabling the university to build an internationally recognized academic complex," Komisar said. "The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center in Fairbanks, the Aviation Technology Center in Anchorage and the expansion of the laboratory complex of the Fishery Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak are just three examples."

Expanding international programs also has been a theme of the 1990s. The American Russian Center at UAA has developed multiple programs with cities in the Russian Far East and the International Arctic Research Center, which is receiving major support from Japan, will promote a compelling international research agenda.

For the past several years, Komisar has led university efforts to reduce its overall administrative costs so funds can be reallocated to academic programs. Komisar said those efforts will continue to be the major priority in the remaining months of his administration.

"Diminishing state resources has been the great disappointment of the last several years," Komisar said. "You cannot build the university the people of Alaska want and deserve without a greater commitment of state resources.

"The university's strength lies in its exceptionally skilled, learned and energetic faculty, staff and student body," Komisar said. "The challenge of the next decade will be to provide the multiple resources necessary for them to do their best work."

Since coming to Alaska, Komisar has had a number of other state assignments. He is the founding chair fo the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation which is constructing a $20 million rocket launch facility on Kodiak Island, and he is on the board of directors of the Alaska SeaLife Center. He was appointed to the Raven Commission by Governor Walter J. Hickel and to the executive committee of Marketing Alaska by Governor Tony Knowles. Governor Steve Cowper appointed him as a commissioner of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a position to which he was reappointed by Governor Knowles.

Prior to accepting the UA presidency, Komisar was executive vice chancellor of the State University of New York System and president of the system's research foundation. During his 24 years with the State University of New York he held a number of administrative and faculty positions, including: acting chancellor, provost, acting president of New York State University College at New Paltz and university professor of economics.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Komisar majored in economics and holds a bachelor's degree from New York University and a master's and doctorate from Columbia University. He and his wife, Natalie, have four children and three grandchildren.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Bob Miller, 907-474-7272