Gamble reflects after announcing retirement

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Thursday, December 18, 2014 10:59pm
  • News

JUNEAU, Alaska — University of Alaska president Pat Gamble said he loves coming to work every day. But at age 69 — and with the university system in a position he feels comfortable with — Gamble said it’s time to retire.

UA announced Monday that Gamble will retire June 1, which will mark five years in the position.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gamble said his proudest point as president has been bringing the leaders of the three main universities together to work on issues across the system rather than having the campuses compete for resources. That means looking for areas where the schools can be more efficient and integrating their budgets.

“Nothing that we’re doing now that is successful, in my opinion, would be either possible or anywhere near as successful if it were not for the leadership that the chancellors of the three universities are providing to their schools, along with their provosts,” Gamble said.

“It’s about what’s best for our university system and our students,” he said later.

When he first took the job of president, the universities were going through a growth phase and had become more independent, meaning there was some overlap in what they were doing, he said.

One of Gamble’s biggest challenges has been prolonging the collaborative relationship that the board of regents and Legislature demand and the public expects, he said.

Gamble, a retired Air Force general, came to the university from the Alaska Railroad Corp., where he served as president and CEO.

As UA president, Gamble launched an outreach effort to better understand what the university system was doing well and what it wasn’t. Issues that emerged on the academic side included low graduation rates and the length of time it was taking students to earn degrees, he said.

The board of regents and the state board that oversees K-12 public education began meeting together two years to begin looking at ways to better prepare students for post-secondary success. Gamble said the joint effort was unprecedented.

The UA system says the completion rate for bachelor’s degrees across the system was at an all-time high of nearly 32 percent during the past fiscal year that ended June 30. The system says it awarded its highest number of degrees and certificates ever during the last fiscal year.

In June, the board of regents approved a contract extension for Gamble that included a $320,000 bonus if he stayed on through May 2016. An online petition protested the bonus, which was rescinded after Gamble asked the board to reconsider it. He cited budget concerns and enrollment challenges and said the issue had become a negative distraction.

He is set to leave when his current contract expires.

Gamble plans to guide the university system through what is expected to be a tough budget year, with the state facing potential deficits of more than $3 billion for both this fiscal year and next.

Gamble said the goal is for UA to get through the rough stretch without losing the gains made in recent years.

His recommends that the board consider what UA needs for the next five years as it searches for his replacement. As for Gamble, he says, “I’m retiring, retiring,” though he added he would be open to serve on a board or for consulting.

Board of regents Chair Jo Heckman, in a release, called Gamble the right leader during a period of change in higher education.

“While it is hard to see him leave, the work he’s done makes the University of Alaska highly attractive to potential candidates for the position,” Heckman said.

More in News

Courtesy photo / Juneau Raptor Center
This golden eagle was rescued by the Juneau Raptor Center over the summer after being found weak and thin.
Rescue center, birdwatchers look back on 2021

Juneau Christmas bird count was way down this year.

This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (NICT via AP)
Tsunami advisory issued after eruption

An undersea volcano erupted Friday near the South Pacific island of Tonga, triggering concerns of damaging waves across Pacific coastlines

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Multiple public works projects underway in Soldotna

Soldotna City Council received an update on eight different projects

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Hospitalizations rise as state reports increase in COVID cases

There were a total of 112 COVID-related hospitalizations in Alaska as of Friday

Terri Carter’s class celebrates the National Blue Ribbon award after their assembly at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Friday, Jan 14, 2022. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
A ‘pathway to a brighter and fulfilling future’

Soldotna Montessori Charter School celebrates national achievement

Homer City Council member Rachel Lord discusses her concerns with funding the Alaska Small Business Development Center Homer Business Advisory position during the Jan. 10 council meeting. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Council says ‘yes to small businesses’

Homer City Council votes 4-2 in favor of partially funding the Homer Business Advisory position.

AP Photo / Becky Bohrer
Sightseeing buses and tourists are seen at a pullout popular for taking in views of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, on Aug. 26, 2016.
Bridge proposed along section of slumping Denali park road

Landslides in the area go back decades but usually required maintenance every two to three years

A sign directs voters at Soldotna City Hall on March 5, 2019. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Locals to join national voting rights march Saturday

The march in Soldotna is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna approves $32,000 federal grant for airport

The funds were made available through the American Rescue Plan Act for improvement projects at the Soldotna Municipal Airport

Most Read