The Entrance to the University of Alaska Southeast. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The Entrance to the University of Alaska Southeast. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Pitney preps for presidency

She’s keeping her place in Juneau

The newly named interim University of Alaska President Pat Pitney will be back in Fairbanks by the end of the month, she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The University announced on Tuesday that Pitney would serve for 12-18 months while a new president is chosen by the Board of Regents.

Pat Pitney will take over in August as interim president of the University of Alaska system. (Courtesy photo | University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Pat Pitney will take over in August as interim president of the University of Alaska system. (Courtesy photo | University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Pitney is taking over from Jim Johnsen whose resignation went into effect earlier this month. Johnsen had been overseeing difficult changes for the university, first with budget cuts at the state level and then massive costs and revenue losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a little bit daunting,” Pitney said. “I’m moving from apprehensive to excited.”

[University of Alaska union calls for president’s resignation]

She worked for UA Fairbanks and the statewide university office for 17 years before coming to work for the state in 2014, she said, and returning to the university during a time of crisis somehow felt right.

“In some sense, it’s giving back to the place that I believe is a strategic asset in the state we need to focus on during this time of economic recovery,” she said.

Pitney currently serves as the state’s Director of the Legislative Finance Divison, and a replacement will be named by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, she said. Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, who chairs the LBA Committee, did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

[University of Alaska president resigns]

Though she’ll be gone from Juneau in a few weeks, she’s not calling it quits for the capital city.

“I’ve really enjoyed Juneau and I’m keeping my place here, I love the mountains out my back door. It’s only a 12-18 month-interim stint,” she said.

As to the future of the university, Pitney said she wants to focus on getting communities engaged with the university.

“I’ll work with the board on the budget issues at hand,” Pitney said, “but I want to focus on how do we get communities engaged with their universities and how can the university better serve their communities and the state as a whole.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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