The University of Alaska Board of Regents voted to appoint Pat Pitney as the UA System’s 17th president, removing “interim” from her title on Friday. The decision was unanimous and was expected.
“This is a time for forward momentum and to celebrate our successes, and I’ll note that President Pitney is the first woman to hold the position in the university’s 100-year history. Congratulations, Pat,” said Sheri Buretta, chair of the Board of Regents.
“Thank you for the confidence in me,” Pitney said. “I am truly honored and humbled to lead this great university system. I am dedicated to continuing to build a strong team with shared governance, with our staff, and with each of our universities. I’m excited about our future.”
Pitney has a financial management history, having worked as the head of the Office of Management and Budget under Gov. Bill Walker. She worked as the director of the state of Alaska’s Legislative Finance Division from January until August of 2020, when she was named interim president of the university.
Born in Billings, Montana, she competed and won a gold medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics in air rifle, the first Olympic champion in air rifle for women, when she was an 18-year-old student at Murray State University in Kentucky. She has a degree in engineering physics and a master of business administration from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Pitney volunteered for nearly 20 years as an assistant coach for the Alaska Nanooks at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, during which the team won nine NCAA Rifle Championships. The Pat Spurgin Rifle Range at Murray State University is named after her.
The board also passed its strategic goals for the UA System, including specific measures that will document progress on each goal. Pitney said the goals and measures will serve as the university system’s roadmap for several years.
The goals, developed with chancellors, leadership teams at each university, and governance include: contributing to Alaska’s economic development, skilled workforce and engaged citizenship; fostering academic excellence for student success; promoting diversity, equity and inclusion for students, faculty and staff; growing world-class research; and, operating cost effectively.
Dr. Pearl Brower, the system’s senior advisor for Alaska Native Success, Institutional Diversity and Student Engagement, provided the board an update on the ongoing Alaska Native Success Initiative. The initiative addresses how each university will work to implement concrete steps to improve the success of Alaska Native students and faculty.
“The scope of the program across the system is a continuum with a focus on students from the time they are in elementary school through their PhDs. The initiative also will allow us to hire faculty who will serve as role models and provide the assurance to our Native students that they belong,” Pitney said. “We are making huge strides. I’m very pleased that the board challenged us to address this important issue and I am heartened by the ownership and the buy-in across the entire system.”