George Blumenthal

George Blumenthal

University of California, Santa Cruz
Award Winner


Chancellor George Blumenthal has led the University of California Santa Cruz for the past 13 years, and has been a faculty member in astronomy and astrophysics there since 1972. His research accomplishments are myriad, but his time as chancellor has transformed UC Santa Cruz into a top-tier, deeply respected institution.

Chancellor Blumenthal has provided campus with a strong, inspirational focus on multiple fronts. Under his leadership, UCSC has staked a claim to academic excellence, advancing diversity and encouraging philanthropy. During his tenure, UCSC has emerged as a research powerhouse, ranking among the top universities in the world for research influence. The numbers of minority and first-generation students have soared alongside the university’s reputation. The number of undergraduates from underrepresented minority groups has nearly doubled over the past decade, and the percentage of entering frosh who are first-generation college students — first in their families to seek a four-year degree — now regularly tops 40 percent.

Meanwhile, UCSC’s first-ever capital campaign, launched by the chancellor, raised $336 million, more than the highest fundraising goal set by campus. The campaign, which concluded in summer 2017, launched quietly in 2009 and went public in 2013. “Launching a first campaign takes significant focus, resources and vision, and Chancellor Blumenthal provided critical leadership in moving the institution toward, and through, this significant effort,” said Linda Peterson, UC Santa Cruz alumna, UC Santa Cruz Foundation trustee and  chair of the UC Santa Cruz Campaign Steering Committee. The campaign also helped to create a culture of philanthropy at the university, as leaders are now looking ahead to the next campaign.

Chancellor Blumenthal has helped craft a more positive image for the university by helping define the university brand, choosing a decade ago to emphasize UC Santa Cruz’s founding tenets of social juice and environmental stewardship. That has reinforced the university’s reputation as a nurturing destination for first-generation students and those from underrepresented communities. Our success in providing students social mobility was noted as a factor in our recent jump in national academic rankings.

Chancellor Blumenthal also helped change what had been an adversarial relationship with the greater community. Shortly after becoming chancellor, he brokered a agreement with civic leaders on future enrollment growth, ending years of litigation, demonstrating a university willing to work with the community, and in doing so changed the entire tenor of the town-gown relationship. The settlement became a case study on how to foster better campus-community relations. “By changing the focus of the negotiations to impacts, we were able to end decades of acrimony and mistrust and reduce traffic, water and quality-of-life impacts for residents, students, faculty, and staff,” said Ryan Coonerty, Santa Cruz County Third District supervisor and a former city of Santa Cruz mayor who worked on the settlement. “Chancellor Blumenthal has been a tremendous partner who has listened to the community and found ways to partner more successfully.”