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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Likins’ presence ‘will be missed’

    Likins addresses an ASUA senate meeting last fall, discussing topics of tuition increases, focused excellence and diversity. Likins, along with other cabinet members, plans to retire July 1.
    Likins addresses an ASUA senate meeting last fall, discussing topics of tuition increases, focused excellence and diversity. Likins, along with other cabinet members, plans to retire July 1.

    President Peter Likins has been through some of the most poignant years at the UA – holding his position through more than $50 million in budget cuts, a CatCard scandal, record-breaking tuition hikes and a 225-hour student sit-in to Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina.

    “”He served this university in a very challenging period,”” said Provost George Davis, who has been at the UA for more than 23 years.

    Likins is recovering from heart surgery at University Medical Center after having emergency surgery last week.

    Patricia Likins, his wife, said he is doing well and should be able to return to work before he is scheduled to retire.

    “”He has got a lot of stamina and he will be back,”” she said.

    Patricia said Likins’ time at the university has been “”the best time of our lives,”” but she is looking forward to spending some quality time with her husband once he retires.

    “”We do like each other an awful lot, he’s my best friend,”” she said.

    Patricia said it hasn’t been hard standing by her husband’s side during his presidency because she loves Tucson and the university.

    As Likins prepares to depart from his nine-year post, faculty and students reflect on the changes he implemented on the UA campus and the legacy he will leave behind.

    Saundra Taylor, senior vice president of campus life, said she is amazed with Likins’ ability to see the light of any situation.

    In the spring of 1999, students held a 225-hour student sit-in to persuade Likins to sign a labor-rights resolution to monitor companies that use sweatshops, and Likins was described as incredibly patient.

    “”That was the first time we saw President Likins willing to go to extreme ends to accommodate students,”” said Ben Graff, student regent and former student body president.

    After the sit-in was over, Likins personally delivered bowls of cherry candies with the saying “”Life is not always a bowl of cherries”” to office staff as a token of gratitude for their hard work through the trying time, Taylor said.

    “”It was an example of how he could go right to the essence of something either with his humor or a gesture. He could really make people feel good,”” Taylor said.

    Carol Bernstein, a research associate

    I think the two words to summarize his legacy would be a commitment to partnership and a commitment to diversity.

    – Ben Graff,
    student regent

    professor in cell biology and retired president of the Arizona chapter of the American Association of University Presidents, said one positive thing Likins did was tighten up the upper administration of the university, specifically with the appointment of Provost Davis.

    “”Davis is more temperate and has more respect for due process,”” she said.

    Davis praised Likins’ perseverance through budget cuts and his willingness to make decisions that could make people afraid, like the College of Medicine expansion in Phoenix.

    “”Most people think the university president has to make a choice to be inside versus outside, and he’s done both,”” Davis said, mentioning the deep understanding Likins has of the internal university affairs in relation to the external.

    “”People who have been in the Tucson community for a lot of years see the exceptional nature of the Pete Likins’ presidency in how strong he is in dealing with ethical issues and taking chances,”” he said.

    Likins has attempted to build strong visions for the community and the university by working with superintendents of schools to try to create and enhance the experiences for K-12 students, Davis said.

    “”In no way has the university been isolated under his leadership,”” he said.

    Taylor said she has reported to four different presidents and believes Likins has been one of the most personable, accessible and engaged administrators in helping her set the agenda for helping students.

    “”A lot of his presidency has come out of his value system – he addressed advising and how to improve advising,”” she said of Likins’ pledge in 2001 to allocate $1.9 million for advising in the midst of extreme budget cuts. “”He made the commitment, got money, and he made sure the money went where it (was) deserved.””

    Despite prevailing financial woes, the university has still grown as a renowned institution and enhanced facilities under Likins’ wing, Taylor said, adding that the campus bookstore and renovated student union wouldn’t be here without him.

    “”We had been working on it for many years before he got here,”” she said. “”We just never had the direct support before him.””

    Graff said Likins is someone who has been continually committed to an open-door policy with students and faculty.

    “”He’s gotten down in the trenches,”” Graff said. “”I think the two words to summarize his legacy would be a commitment to partnership and a commitment to diversity.””

    Taylor echoes Graff’s sentiments.

    “”(He has) a true commitment to diversity, probably more than any president I have ever worked for,”” she said. “”He models what he expects the rest of us to do.””

    Erin Hertzog, acting student body president, said Likins is humble enough to participate as a mentor for student leaders.

    “”Someone who has such a busy schedule and is willing to serve in that mentor role is awesome,”” she said.

    Likins helped Hertzog deal with ASUA turmoil in the beginning of the spring 2006 semester by giving her advice on how to deal with media and motivating her to keep her head up.

    “”It was a tough situation I had to go through. He adopted me in that aspect, showed me the path and how to deal with it,”” Hertzog said.

    Former student body president and medical student Alistair Chapman said even when he and Likins were on opposite sides of an issue, they were always able to reach an agreement.

    “”I looked at my relationship with Likins not as the students versus the administration, but more as a partnership,”” he said.

    Chapman said one such issue was the cancellation of the commencement ceremony in the fall 2004.

    After strong student opposition, meetings and forums with students, Likins decided maybe the cancellation wasn’t the best idea for the students and reinstated the ceremony, Chapman said.

    “”To reverse a public decision really takes a lot of courage,”” he said.

    Another example of Likins’ commitment to students is his dedication to being an accessible administrator, Chapman said.

    If there was a pertinent issue where Chapman needed to meet with the president, he said he could call Likins that morning to schedule a meeting.

    “”I don’t think you can find a campus in the country with that possibility,”” he said.

    Hertzog said Likins came into the university with the mentality that it is a student institution, and Likins maintained that through his tenure at the UA.

    “”He won’t propose anything unless he knows how it will affect students,”” she said.

    Likins has been instrumental in making the university visible in the state, nation and world, said Wanda Howell, chair of the Faculty Senate and a nutritional sciences professor.

    “”He has more than any other president in my memory been the ambassador of promotion for the UA,”” she said.

    Howell said Likins has amazing oratory skills.

    “”He can talk about anything and be brilliant at the drop of a hat,”” she said, adding that such a quality has contributed greatly to his success as a president.

    Howell said she will miss Likins after he retires, but she believes successor Robert Shelton, executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is also extraordinarily talented in higher education.

    Shelton said he understands what makes Likins successful, but he also plans to establish his own independence as president.

    “”I’m not going to try to be Pete Likins because I would fail at that,”” he said.

    Shelton said one of the factors that influenced him to come to the UA was an admiration for Likins.

    “”One measure of Pete’s success is how well he has been able to surround himself with good people and bring people together for the University of Arizona,”” he said.

    Davis said events scheduled for Likins’ retirement have been rescheduled but will be open to the public.

    Until then, Patricia Likins said she will dream of going to the movies, playing scrabble and sitting by the pool with her husband.

    “”We will have more time together, and I think we deserve it,”” she said.

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