SAN FRANCISCO — The California State University system named a new chancellor Thursday to head the nation's largest collection of four-year colleges as it faces significant financial and academic headwinds.
CSU officials said Timothy P. White, currently the chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, will take charge of the Cal State system, which has 427,000 students on 23 campuses.
White, 63, will replace Charles B. Reed, who is retiring after 14 years. White plans to start the new job in late December when the 71-year-old Reed steps down.
Born in Argentina, White moved to Northern California as a boy and was the first in his family to go to college. He was a student in the CSU, UC and California Community Colleges systems.
"It's a very important day in my life personally. It's a day when I double down on my commitment to the state of California," White told reporters. "It's a nice chance for me to give back to this great state."
White is expected to receive the same compensation package as Reed: an annual salary of $421,500 plus a $30,000 supplement from CSU foundation sources and a standard benefits package.
After a nationwide search that began in May, the CSU board of trustees approved White's appointment Wednesday and is scheduled to vote on his compensation package in November, said spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp.
Over the past three years, Cal State has sustained unprecedented cuts in state funding, leading to steep tuition hikes and deep reductions to courses, staffing, services and student enrollment.
The CSU system could face a $250 million midyear funding cut if California voters reject Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. Last month, the CSU board of trustees approved a measure to raise tuition by 5 percent early next year if the proposition fails.
"There's a lot at stake. It's really about the future of California's ability to remain competitive in the global economy," White said.
CSU board Chairman Bob Linscheid said White has the right experience and background to lead the Cal State system.
"His demonstrated leadership and commitment to student success are the right combination for the university's future," Linscheid said.
The Cal State faculty union, which has clashed with Reed over university policies and contract negotiations, welcomed White to the job.
"While we wish that the CSU trustees had been more transparent in making its selection, we are nevertheless eager to work with the new chancellor to rebuild the California State University," said union President Lillian Taiz, a history professor at Cal State Los Angeles.
Wednesday's CSU announcement comes a week after California Community Colleges named Brice Harris to head the 112-campus system. Harris, previously headed the Los Rios Community College District in the Sacramento area, will replace Jack Scott.
White grew up in the San Francisco Bay area suburb of Pleasant Hill, where he delivered newspapers and was an avid swimmer and water polo player. He went to Diablo Valley Community College, earned a bachelor's degree at Fresno State University, a master's degree at Cal State East Bay and a doctorate at UC Berkeley.
"The powerful lesson for me is, it's not where you start, it's where you finish," White said.
White, an expert in muscle plasticity, injury and aging, launched his academic career as a researcher at the University of Michigan. He served as a senior administrator at Oregon State University and the University of Idaho before becoming the eighth chancellor of the 21,000-student UC Riverside campus in 2008.
University of California President Mark Yudof, who heads the 10-campus UC system, called White an "excellent choice to lead the California State University system."
Yudof said he will soon appoint an interim chancellor for UC Riverside before launching a search for a permanent successor.
White has four sons with his wife Karen, who is a professor in the biomedical sciences program at UC Riverside.