Regents name ASU leader next president of University of the Pacific

Christopher Callahan, left, and his wife Jean Callahan.

Christopher Callahan, who led the transformation of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University into one of the nation’s top programs, will be the 26th president of California’s oldest chartered university. (Photo by Jim David)

University of the Pacific today announced that Christopher Callahan, who led the transformation of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University into one of the nation’s top programs, will be the 26th president of California’s oldest chartered university.

Pacific Board of Regents Chair Kevin Huber said Callahan, who serves as vice provost of Arizona State’s downtown Phoenix campus and CEO of Arizona PBS as well as founding dean of the Cronkite School, will start July 1, 2020.

Huber praised Callahan’s experience as a leader and innovator.

“Chris was the unanimous selection of the board,” Huber said. “He brings an energy and experience that match Pacific’s needs perfectly. He has an impressive track record developing programs that are relevant to students, and he will bring great ideas for unifying our distinctive three-campus university in new ways to fully leverage Pacific’s undergraduate experiences and unparalleled professional schools and graduate programs.”

Callahan joined Arizona State in 2005 as the Cronkite School’s first dean. During his time, he led efforts that dramatically increased student enrollment, retention, diversity, graduation rates and recruitment of out-of-state students. He also more than tripled the size of the faculty through philanthropy, entrepreneurial partnerships and strategic initiatives, championed a teaching design of immersive experiential learning and community service, led the creation of new degree programs on the undergraduate, master’s and PhD levels, forged learning and research partnerships with major corporations and nonprofits nationally, and raised more than $100 million.

“Chris has an exciting balance of academic experience and entrepreneurial skill,” said Norman Allen, vice chair of the Board of Regents and chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. “He has a deep appreciation for the liberal arts and the breadth of our academic programs as well as the vision to make a Pacific education available to more students in more ways. He also understands how to engage with our entire community in a personable, relatable and productive way. Chris is exactly what Pacific needs right now.”

In his role as vice provost for Arizona State’s downtown Phoenix campus, Callahan helped foster the growth of the 13-year-old campus, which now has nearly 13,000 students across seven colleges. And as CEO of Arizona PBS, he leads one of the nation’s largest public television stations, with a focus on public service and lifelong learning. Before joining ASU, Callahan served in faculty and leadership positions at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Early in his career, he was a correspondent for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C.

“I am honored and humbled to join the talented students and dedicated faculty of University of the Pacific,” Callahan said. “Pacific is an outstanding national university with an extraordinarily rich history spanning 168 years – and an even greater future.”

“Pacific has so many advantages: inspiring professors who are laser focused on student success, an engaged and diverse study body, talented regents, dedicated administrators and staff, loyal alumni and an enviable mix of outstanding professional schools with a distinguished liberal arts college at its core,” he said. “Pacific provides students the best attributes of a national comprehensive university combined with the close-knit, intimate learning environment of a small liberal arts college. It is truly the best of both worlds.”

Callahan also highlighted Pacific’s three campuses in Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco. “What other university has a breathtakingly picturesque campus in a critically important agricultural region, another in one of the most influential political capitals in the world, and yet another in the foremost corridor of technology and business in the country? That is remarkable and provides great possibilities for students and Pacific’s neighboring communities.”

Callahan said the most compelling characteristic of Pacific is the university’s “authentic focus” on student success through immersive classroom studies, experiential learning environments and service to its communities. “I have focused on that same mission during my 25 years in higher education leadership, and I look forward to working with faculty, students, staff, alumni, supporters, community partners and regents to build on Pacific’s great traditions and mission.”

Callahan holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Boston University’s College of Communication and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college.

“I have seen firsthand the promise and transformational powers of higher education as a first-generation college graduate,” Callahan said. “It will be an honor to work side-by-side with the Pacific community and university leaders, such as Dr. Maria Pallavicini, to continue to grow the university to benefit a new generation of college students at a time when a college education is  more important than ever before.”

Callahan will be joined at Pacific by his wife, Jean, a human resources executive. The couple will reside in the President’s Residence on the Stockton Campus.

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