Dec. 21, 2006 -- University of Virginia Vice President and Provost Gene D. Block today was named the new chancellor of UCLA and will take office on or before Aug. 1, 2007. A search for Block's successor will begin following the holiday break, according to U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.
Block, 58, has been vice president and provost since 2001 and is also the Alumni Council Thomas Jefferson Professor of Biology, having joined U.Va. in 1978 as an assistant professor of biology. At UCLA, he will hold a faculty appointment as well as serving as chancellor.
"Gene Block has been known in the University of Virginia community for his strong commitment to public service, his excellent judgment, his dedication to core academic values and his profound mind," Casteen said. "Gene's background as a researcher and his years in the classroom gave him an intimate understanding of the challenges faculty face every day. His years as a University administrator added a high level of understanding of Universitywide needs and opportunities. His steady guidance will be greatly missed."
Adding that "the chancellorship at UCLA is just the kind of academic leadership position for which Gene has spent the last decade preparing," Casteen said that he was pleased that those outside U.Va. are looking for their next leaders from among the University's ranks. Earlier this year, the University of Richmond tapped Edward L. Ayers, dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences as its president.
"We create strong, ambitious leaders who are able to operate with a great deal of autonomy, and we applaud their desire to move on to new opportunities," Casteen said.
The searches for both Block and Ayers will, Casteen acknowledged, "put stress on our system, especially in light of our current campaign." U.Va. launched its $3 billion Campaign for the University this fall.
"Our job now is twofold: to keep the good work that Gene has begun moving forward; and to move quickly and diligently to assure a smooth transition in leadership," Casteen said.
Block was selected by UCLA following a nationwide search that produced a pool of approximately 100 candidates. University of California President Robert C. Dyne recommended Block to the UC Board of Regents during a special meeting today.
Dyne described Block as "an accomplished scholar and administrator, a man of integrity," adding: "I believe he understands well our mission as a world leader and a public institution, as well as the opportunities and challenges facing UCLA."
In comments made following the announcement in Los Angeles, Block said his goal would be to make a great place even better. In particular, Block said that he wanted to make progress on diversifying faculty and students.
"That is something that I worked hard to accomplish at the University of Virginia and will work at that here," Block said. "Students in today's world must have an experience in a diverse learning community in order to be successful."
During Block's tenure at U.Va., he has not only been an active researcher in his field of biological timing but he has held several positions in the administration prior to being named vice president and provost five years ago.
In an interview published in UCLA Today, Block cited the fact that his transition from teacher and researcher to administrator at U.Va. was planned and that he had always thought administration was something that he would avoid.
But, he added, that "I found a whole new group of people, unbelievable talented staff, whom you don't usually interact with as a faculty member … And it allows you to paint on a larger canvas."
Block served as vice president for research and public service, vice provost for research and founding director of the National Science Foundation Center for Biological Timing and director of the Biodynamics Institute.
His most recent research projects address the action of aging on cells in the brain that form the biological clock and on understanding the involvement of the biological clock in African Sleeping Sickness. He was the founding director of the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center in Biological Timing. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a visiting fellow of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.
Block holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a master's degree and PH.D. from the University of Oregon.