University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced today that he will step down at the end of the year after more than eight years of heading the campus.
In a letter to the campus community, Birgeneau, 69, wrote, "I am deeply grateful to have been entrusted with the profound responsibility of leading this great institution and its outstanding faculty, staff and students through one of the most challenging periods in its 144-year history."
Birgeneau, who is also a professor of physics, said he plans to remain at UC Berkeley to teach and conduct research.
Appointed as UC Berkeley's ninth chancellor in September 2004, Birgeneau said he initially hoped to serve for seven years but remained in his post longer because of the state's economic crisis and the related challenges to the university that he described as "the most extreme disinvestment by the state in UC's history."
Birgeneau said, "Although challenges still remain, I am confident that we have put into place a clear pathway for the years ahead and strategies that will support Berkeley's ongoing excellence and its impact on the world."
UC President Mark Yudof said he will establish a committee to conduct a nationwide search for a new chancellor for UC Berkeley.
Yudof said in a statement that Birgeneau "has proven to be a passionate, dedicated and effective steward of the world's greatest public university and an ardent champion of academic excellence, as well as an unwavering advocate for the underdog."
Yudof credited Birgeneau with promoting new research initiatives at UC Berkeley such as the Blum Center for Developing Economies and the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences.
He said Birgenau "has aimed high in his efforts to make UC Berkeley a truly global force in higher education and research, but he also has managed to preserve its historic standing in California as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all prospective students."
Birgeneau said, "I will continue to devote my full energies to leading Berkeley until my successor is appointed by the UC Regents and will work with him or her to effect a smooth transition."