When Michael Drake greeted members of the Ohio State Board of Trustees as appointed university president for the first time, he was wearing a scarlet and gray tie.
“I am deeply honored by your nomination and the confidence you display in me,” Drake said during a Thursday Board meeting. “I’m truly excited and honored to be here today.”
Drake said the OSU presidency is in many ways the “premier” position in higher education in the U.S.
“Ohio State is bold in its intention to inspire greatness in its faculty, staff and students … I am deeply humbled by this opportunity and looking forward to joining the Buckeye community,” he said.
OSU officials announced Drake as the university’s next president Thursday, effective June 30.
“You will see he’s going to make a terrific Buckeye,” Presidential Search Committee Chairman Jeffrey Wadsworth said Thursday.
As chancellor of the University of California Irvine, which is a land grant institution, Wadsworth said Drake was a strong candidate to lead a “complex” institution like OSU.
“His qualifications are unquestionable … he’s a serious candidate, a substantive person with strong beliefs,” Wadsworth said.
A land grant institution is one that was designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original intent was for the schools to teach agriculture, military tactics and mechanics, as well as classical studies.
As chancellor at UC Irvine, Drake made an annual salary of $401,115, Ria Carlson, associate vice chancellor for strategic communications at UC Irvine, said in an email. Information about Drake’s OSU contract and salary was unavailable Thursday.
At Irvine, Drake “doesn’t have an employment agreement or defined term” and is an “at-will employee,” Carlson said.
Drake’s annual salary at Irvine is roughly one-fourth of former OSU President E. Gordon Gee’s nearly $1.9 million earnings in the 2011-12 fiscal year at OSU.
Wadsworth said as the search was narrowed, five candidates visited campus, and there was a clear consensus Drake was the man for the job.
Drake was appointed chancellor of UC Irvine in 2005. Before his appointment, he served as vice president for health affairs for the University of California system for five years.
UC Irvine has more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, according to UC Irvine 2013 Facts and Figures.
Drake is an alumnus of Stanford University and UC San Francisco and said his mother was raised in Youngstown, Ohio.
“I think of her at this moment,” he said during his first speech as the 15th OSU president. Drake said returning to a place where his family has deep roots is “quite touching.”
A message from Drake was released by Irvine Thursday, officially announcing his decision to leave California after graduation ceremonies, which according to an Irvine website run through June 16.
“Our decision to transition is made with decidedly mixed emotions,” Drake said in the released message about his and his wife’s choice to take the OSU position. “The opportunity to begin a new adventure at the Ohio State University is compelling and unique, but the requirement that we leave home and family to do so is formidable.
“Throughout the winter and spring we will continue to work diligently on our university’s growth and advancement as we prepare to bid farewell in June. We will do so taking comfort in the knowledge that the extraordinary talents of the campus community and the excellence and commitment of our leaders will continue to propel the University of California, Irvine forward through its second half century and beyond,” the statement said.
Drake is the first black OSU president in the university’s 144-year history. His appointment came roughly seven months after Gee retired July 1.
Gee announced his decision to retire from OSU days after controversial comments he made at a Dec. 5, 2012, OSU Athletic Council meeting came under public scrutiny. Remarks about Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference in particular brought national attention. The former two-time OSU president is currently serving as president at West Virginia University, taking an unpaid leave as president emeritus at OSU.
Gee’s base salary as president emeritus and a tenured professor in the OSU Moritz College of Law, his new position at OSU post-retirement, was set to be $410,000, to be paid each year from 2013 through June 2018.
Gee is currently serving as president of West Virginia University while it searches for a new president. His annual salary there is $450,000.
Interim President Joseph Alutto was recognized and thanked by Chairman of the Board Robert Schottenstein before the announcement of Drake’s appointment. Alutto served as executive vice president and provost prior to his term as interim president.
Student Trustee Ben Reinke said he gave Drake and his wife a tour of campus, and said Drake “one, genuinely cares about students and two, he has the perfect skill set for this time.”
“If you check YouTube, you’ll find he has very strong skills in guitar and bow tying.”