Founding Chancellor, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, Remembered



The UC Merced campus community is mourning the passing of a visionary leader who overcame major hurdles to establish the first new UC campus in 40 years.

Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who served so capably as founding chancellor from 1999 to 2006, died Oct. 10, in Decatur, Ga., with her family by her side. She succumbed after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.

“We are deeply saddened by Carol’s passing,” said Chancellor Steve Kang, who succeeded Tomlinson-Keasey in March 2007. “Simply put, UC Merced would not exist were it not for her visionary leadership, her tireless determination and her remarkable gift of persuasion. The campus, the UC system and the entire region have lost a great friend and champion with her passing. We will be forever thankful to Carol for the many, many contributions she made to the university and the people of the San Joaquin Valley.”

Despite severe budget obstacles, environmental concerns, political hurdles and numerous other challenges, Tomlinson-Keasey managed to translate the dream of a new UC campus into a broadly supported vision of future greatness. She presided over the university’s grand opening in September 2005 and oversaw its continued development through August 2006, when she stepped down to return to teaching and writing. She retired from the university in 2007.

In her inaugural address on Oct. 25, 2002, on the undeveloped site where the first buildings of the 10th UC campus would soon begin to rise, Tomlinson-Keasey vowed that UC Merced would “keep the promise that California made to its citizens in 1868,” when the University of California system was established.

“In classrooms and labs, in dormitories, over the din of cafeterias, in libraries that allow for quiet reflection, we will transform the lives of the next generation,” she said.

“We will help educate the youth who will become our leaders and we will help them understand the interdependence of peoples and nations. We will provide those engineers and scientists who will plan and deliver the next exuberant phase of technology. We will offer the tools of thought and encourage the imaginations of those who will care for the planet, find cures for diseases and nourish souls with the arts. We will provide unique research programs, internships, study-abroad programs and programs at the nation’s and state’s capitals – all with the intent of lighting an intellectual fire.”

“UC Merced is well on its way to realizing the dream Carol so eloquently described,” said Kang. “Her belief in the mission and her remarkable ability to overcome enormous obstacles will help guide and sustain us for many years to come.”

In honor of her many contributions to UC Merced, the university’s central quadrangle was recently named the Carol Tomlinson-Keasey Quad. In addition, both Tomlinson-Keasey and her husband, Dr. Blake Keasey, were awarded the UC Merced Chancellor’s Medal for exceptional contribution to the university at the 2009 commencement ceremony.

A formal memorial service with Tomlinson-Keasey’s family in attendance will be held in the coming months when they are available to travel to Merced.

A special Web page has been created to honor Tomlinson-Keasey. Students, staff, faculty and friends are encouraged to send a brief note, including full name and organization (if applicable), in remembrance of founding Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey to:

Remembrances from friends and colleagues include

“She had an unwavering commitment to UC Merced and shared our community's vision of bringing a UC campus to the Central Valley.” – Congressman Dennis Cardoza

“Carol was more than a tireless advocate for UC Merced; she was a fighter in both her personal and professional life.” – State Senator Jeff Denham

“Without Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey UC Merced would still be a dream, and not the thriving campus that it is today.” – Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani

“Carol was an inspiration to all. She never went "off message" and because of that we have a world class university located in one of the neediest areas of the state.” – Kenni Friedman, UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustee