UW Tacoma names next chancellor

The University of Washington Tacoma will have a new leader in March.

Mark Pagano, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Montana State University Billings, was selected from a group of three finalists to be the school’s next chancellor, the UW announced Tuesday.

Pagano’s academic career has led him slowly across the country from the Midwest to the Great Plains and now to the Pacific Northwest.

His arrival in Tacoma won’t be his first time in the Northwest. He was in the area last year on vacation with his wife, Kelly, when he learned UWT had begun its chancellor search.

“I had no choice but to get this job,” Pagano joked in a phone interview from Montana on Tuesday. His wife loved the campus and the area, and so did he, he said.

His excitement for the school only grew after meeting with search committee members, Pagano said.

“He presented a very clear vision on how to engage the community and the campus community,” said Jill Purdy, associate professor at UWT’s Milgard School of Business.

Purdy served as co-chairman of the 21-member search committee. The committee’s chancellor recommendation was sent to University of Washington President Michael K. Young and Provost Ana Mari Cauce, who made the final decision.

“I think he’s someone who’s very eager to learn about our community,” Purdy said.

Pagano, 59, will be the school’s fifth full-time chancellor and will receive an annual salary of $276,400.

He arrives at a time when UWT is expanding its student body, academic programs and urban footprint in increasingly visible ways.

The school, celebrating its 25th year in 2015, has 4,500 students currently enrolled and is projected to grow to 7,000 over the next decade.

Built on the bones of a historic warehouse district, UWT opened a new library in 2013, debuted an arts center in 2014 and opened its combined student center and YMCA branch last week.

The campus is inextricably woven into downtown life, as illustrated by last fall’s creation of the first segment of the Prairie Line Trail.

Pagano said he will continue building the urban university’s relationship with its neighbors. That includes picking up some of the initiatives started by Chancellor Debra Friedman, who died last January.

He said he will continue to strengthen relationships started by Friedman. He said he will work with area K-12 schools and nonprofits and enhance the university’s outreach to veterans and service members returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

A total of five finalists visited the campus in November and December for public presentations and interviews. Three were men, two were women, and all came from universities outside Washington.

Two finalists withdrew — one for family reasons, the other after being appointed president of another university, Purdy said.

Pagano plans to visit Tacoma in the next few weeks to find a home and orient himself with the area before he starts as chancellor March 16. Interim Chancellor Kenyon Chan will keep leading the school until then.

Pagano’s appointment is subject to approval by the UW Board of Regents.