Shortly after Michael A. Driscoll began a new job at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2006, the fine arts dean from Indiana University of Pennsylvania stopped by to see old colleagues and brag about his new institution.
Mr. Driscoll remembered how much dean Michael Hood praised the students, faculty and facilities.
So when a consultant last fall asked if Mr. Driscoll might want to consider seeking the presidency of IUP, Mr. Driscoll thought it certainly was worth looking at.
IUP thought it was a good fit, too.
On Thursday, the board of governors of the State System of Higher Education named Mr. Driscoll, 50, as the new president of IUP effective July 1. He will replace David J. Werner, who became interim president in August 2010 after President Tony Atwater left.
"I really value the institution that is strongly dedicated to serving its communities and to connecting the faculty's research with the students' experience," Mr. Driscoll said in a phone interview. " I felt that very strongly there. I think that's the right model for higher education." He also was impressed by the people. "These were folks I thought I could work together with as a team as we tried to move things ahead."
While he said Alaska is "fairly well off financially right now," he said he had to deal with the realities of declining resources when he worked for 18 years at Portland State University where he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering and served as an associate chair, an associate dean, an executive dean and a vice provost.
At IUP, he faces financial challenges, including declining funding for the state-owned universities.
He said the fundamental idea is "the university has to have a clear view of its core mission and values. What are the most important things to do? Universities are large, complex places. At some point, you have to decide what's most important and what you're going to stop doing so you can do the most important things. That's difficult."
He said such decisions need to be made in a shared way.
"I'm not walking in the door saying, 'This is what IUP will look like in five years,' but rather, 'Let's talk together about what we envision the future to be' ... I expect to spend a lot of time in conversation and communication."
Mr. Driscoll earned a bachelor's, master's and doctorate in electrical engineering from Michigan State University.
After working at Portland State, he moved to Alaska in 2006 where he became provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2006 and executive vice chancellor in 2011. He is the chief academic officer for the UAA system of campuses.
Guido M. Pichini, board of governors chairman, called Mr. Driscoll "an outstanding academic leader, with an extensive record of success everywhere he has served."
UAA has about 16,000 students on its main campus; IUP has about 15,000 students.