I AM UAA: Chancellor Tom Case

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Chancellor Tom CaseRetired Air Force Lieutenant General
Former dean of College of Business and Public Policy
Husband, father, grandfather
Fun Fact: Has a passion for flying light airplanes, specifically, his Cessna 185

If you go to UAA's Office of the Chancellor website, you can find Tom Case's bio. Reading through it, it is clear that he is very well-educated, very well-traveled, and with more life experience in his pinkie than....well, you know the cliché. But sitting down and talking with Tom Case you quickly learn that despite the distinguished resume, he is quite down-to-earth (when he's not flying light airplanes) and keeps the interests of the UAA community-students, faculty, staff and alumni-first and foremost at the heart of his day-to-day responsibilities as chancellor.

"As a former dean of the College of Business and Public Policy at UAA, Tom has experience in higher education and is passionate about UAA," says Kristin DeSmith, assistant vice chancellor of University Relations. "Many of us who've been at the university for a while and have had the pleasure of working with Tom during his time as dean can tell you that he's a strong, forward-thinking leader who listens to and learns from those around him."

In talking about the university's priorities in the coming academic year, Tom has a long list: maintaining statewide influence in getting students ready for high demand job areas; advising, counseling and assessing students in order to provide each and every one with an efficient pathway to graduation and college success; opening the new College of Health to boost UAA's health care education capacity; and bolstering undergraduate, graduate and doctorate research capacities. It's a tall order, but Tom sees the big picture clearly.

"It's important for the whole array of our open access, full service, regional university to play a key role in the state's future," he says. "We have pathways for students of all locations and all backgrounds to be successful."

So how does he guide the process to hit these targets? Through a surprisingly routine regime of meetings (no surprise there); recognition of great performances and achievements of students, faculty, and staff; oversight of vice chancellors' work on new construction projects, budget and strategic planning; a fair amount of time working with a variety of university governance organizations; attending community events; and, simply, visiting with people on campus.

"I try to spend a portion of every day walking around, visiting the places I haven't been recently or yet at all," he says. "When I first arrived last May, I began by visiting the furthest geographically separated parts of the university first, going to our four community campuses. And now I'm working my way in, but there are still parts of Anchorage's campus that I haven't yet visited. I'll continue to be working on that because walking around talking to people is important."

An early riser, he aspires to begin his day at the Alaska Club to get a workout in and out of the way. And then on a typical day he's in the office shortly thereafter, taking advantage of the quiet hours of the early morning to get a jump on his agenda. And when he's not in the office?

"I have one driving recreational passion," he admits. "Light airplane flying. I became completely fascinated by aviation at an early age, working at a local airport in exchange for flying lessons to earn my private license in high school. To see the backcountry and grandeur of Alaska, fish a little bit along the way, and have the opportunity to fly with university visitors is my great passion."

His other passion is his family. Wed to his wife Susan 42 years ago, he received his marriage certificate on the very same day he received his Air Force commission and Academy degree. His daughter Donna (UAA M.B.A.) and her husband live in Eugene and teach English as a Second Language at the University of Oregon. With granddaughter number two having just arrived, Tom couldn't be more proud.

When asked what he's been able to learn from his time at UAA that he wasn't able to learn anywhere else along his life's path, he pointed to how much he is learning about the vital role of our wonderful university supporters and donors.

"There are a whole number of incredibly bright people in the different academic programs, research areas and departments here at UAA all doing incredible things that have been a learning opportunity for me," he says. "Since I was here as dean of the College of Business and Public Policy three years ago, there has been incredible progress and great momentum. The level of community supporters has impressed me as well as the philanthropic generosity of our donors and alumni."

As we go into the 2011-2012 academic year, Tom encourages everyone on campus to keep up the extraordinary work.

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