October 28, 2021

By Betti Halsell

Contributing Writer


Michael V. Drake harvested enough academic experience to attract the perfect opportunity to lead the mission of racial equality through collegiate means. As the 21st president of the “world-renowned” University of California (UC) system, Drake oversees 10 campuses 10 UC campuses, five medical centers and three nationally affiliated labs. More than 200,000 students and faculty members will be influenced by his decisions; Drake credits his motivation to the desire of being a good person every day.  University of California system.  “I’ve had an unusually long career in higher education,” Drake said, “This is my 17th year in a role like this—I've done this for a long time—that actually has been a big help in something that is complicated as the University of California.”

Drake became the 21st president of the University of California in August of 2020, however, he was in a position of leadership as the president of Ohio State University (OSU) right before the transition. He led the Brutus Buckeyes for over six years, before extending his position at the head of the UC infrastructure. 

As a graduate of Stanford, Drake received his A.B and his residency, M.D. He continued his academic journey at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF,) progressing through his fellowship program in Ophthalmology. Subsequently, Drake invested two more decades at the San Francisco campus, as a faculty member for the School of Medicine. He would participate as the Steven P. Shearling Professor of Ophthalmology during his tenure. 

The newly positioned UC president cultivated traits that were undeniable. His entire academic career has been intertwined with multiple workings of the University of California and their range of departments. Drake has been chancellor of UC Irvine (nine years,) and systemwide vice president for health affairs (five years.)

Following operations incubated through Drake’s direction, UC Irvine saw a pivot in their reputation, premiering as a top-tier school of choice. On record, UC Irvine elevated to the top 10 public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list. During Drakes tenure, the four-year graduation rate increased to more than 18 percent. Parallel to the rise in awareness, undergraduate interest and diversity grew significantly. 

“I’ve been a chancellor for nine years, I’ve been the president of Ohio State University, which is a very large and comprehensive university—and so those experiences all really helped, in preparing me to work with my colleagues, the chancellors here, on campus.” Drake continued, “I felt really prepared.” 

In addition to his personal collegiate experience, Drake oversaw the development of new campuses of law and education in addition to new construction around public health, nursing, and pharmacy. “Half of our business at the University of California is in or at academic medical centers, so I’ve also been the chair of the board of Association of Academic Health Standards for the U.S.” 

Drake shared multiple viewpoints from the list of leading positions he took ownership in, he explained his consideration to lead in this measure.  He said, “To be honest, having led the research institutions and the public institutions, and the athletic institutions, and the medical center—no one else has done it.” He saw his wisdom as a tool that needed to be utilized.

Providing his thoughts for the future narrative, Drake has authored and contributed to six books. He was tapped to review several medical journals, including those published under the American Medical Association, Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, and American Journal of Ophthalmology.  

Drake is heavily involved in diverse communities of knowledge and his presence has been acknowledged as an honor. He dedicates his time to the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

The UC president has sat as the former chair of the board of directors of the Association of American Universities. Presently, he serves as a member of the board of directors for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Through the lens of a public servant, Drake devoted his energy to a breath of occupations for the American Medical Association, the National Eye Institute, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and a wide range of commissions on health in the state of California.

The former chancellor has received the UCSF School of Medicine’s Clinical Teaching Award, the Hogan Award for Laboratory Research, the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for University Service, the UC Irvine Medal, and the University of California Presidential Medal in recognition of his exemplary service to the University.

Drake prides himself on being a good person. Understanding his purpose, Drake worked on his character throughout his career, which made him an undeniable force. Embodying the 21st president of UC’s central network, he will oversee the navigation of 10 campuses, five medical centers, and three nationally affiliated labs. Drake dissected the mindset of scholars and found the blueprint to human evolution, is through leveling the playing field through academics. 

Drake provided the map to his motivation, by stating, “I started like we all do--one step at a time. Get up in the morning, do your homework, and try to move forward—and that’s really been my creed. I taught my sons, day-by-day you try to do a good thing, try to do a good job today, and try to do a good job tomorrow.

The thing that helped me the most in the leadership position is to think about values—what's important to me and why and try to be true to a set of values on a daily basis.”

According to the site, the UC campuses are spread across the state of California and include UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced.  For more information, visit www.universityofcalifornia.edu..

Category: Education