Announcing the retirement of Provost Maria Pallavicini

Provost Maria Pallavicini

Dear Pacificans,

It is with a mix of deep gratitude, sadness for us and happiness for her that I report our long-time Provost, Dr. Maria Pallavicini, will be stepping down from her post as our university’s chief academic officer and executive vice president later this year.

Maria has served Pacific tirelessly, with passion, conviction and the highest values, since she joined California’s first university in early 2011 after a rich career in higher education as a scientist, professor and dean.

While she looks forward to starting her well-deserved retirement, spending more time with Ron, her three daughters and her grandchildren, Maria continues to demonstrate her dedication to Pacific by offering to stay until a new provost is hired and installed. We are grateful since, as you know, this is an absolutely essential position, and we will not rush in our search for the right person.

I am in conversations with Academic Council Chair Paul Subar and incoming Chair Shika Gupta and will report back shortly on the makeup of the search committee. But in the meantime, let’s take this opportunity to reflect on the extraordinary contributions Maria has made to our university and 43 years in higher education.

After receiving her BA in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley and her PhD in pharmacology from the University of Utah, Maria started her career as a biomedical scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1978 before joining the faculty at the University of California San Francisco in 1990. She served at UCSF for 12 years before being named the founding dean of the School of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Merced in 2002. She served as dean for nine years before coming to Pacific.

A prolific researcher, Maria has authored or co-authored more than 80 peer-reviewed articles focusing on her research area of stem cells in cancer. She also taught undergraduate courses on stem cell biology and graduate courses in cancer biology and genetics.

As the founding dean of the School of Natural Sciences at Merced, she recruited top faculty and staff for the new university, establishing programs in mathematics, biology, chemistry, environmental sciences and physics. Today the school is the cornerstone of the 16-year-old university, with nearly one-third of the students and half of the student credit hours taught.

Here at Pacific, you can see Maria’s work everywhere across our three campuses. She recruited all of our current deans, helped build our top-flight faculty and guided the design and execution of a wide array of new degree programs.

It is impossible to overstate the influence Maria has had on our university, but perhaps the most prominent part of her legacy will be the creation of the new School of Health Sciences, anchored in new facilities in Sacramento with programs in Stockton and Sacramento–our only school that stretches across all three campuses.

Maria also led Pacific through difficult times. She served as our interim president from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020–arguably the most difficult assignment in all of higher education. If that challenge was not great enough, the global pandemic hit hard during the second half of her interim year as president. Maria led us during that difficult time with grace, steadiness and professionalism. An early decision by Maria to purchase the necessary equipment that would allow us to serve as a vaccination site was prescient, allowing us to be among the first universities in California to open COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

On a personal note, I will always be indebted to Maria, who welcomed me to my new position and the Pacific community with warmth and her trademark spirit of generosity. She has been a wonderful colleague, partner and friend.

We will have plenty of opportunities to properly celebrate Maria and all she has done for our university in the months to come, but for now, let me just ask you to join me today in a hearty and heartfelt “thank you” to a great educator, colleague and leader.


Christopher Callahan