UC Merced’s first and current Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey announced her plans yesterday to step down from the campus’ top position this summer, saying she wished to return to teaching and scholarship.

Tomlinson-Keasey has held her position at the University of California’s 10th and newest campus since Aug. 1, 1999. In addition to witnessing UC Merced’s opening to roughly 900 students this past fall, the chancellor said she would stay to see its first graduation this spring, in which one undergraduate and one graduate student will walk.

During a press conference yesterday afternoon, 63-year-old Tomlinson-Keasey said she felt confident that UC Merced’s administrators and faculty – all of whom she helped hire – would continue forming a quality education at the campus without her.

“I have been so pleased with the faculty response in our first year here in delivering an academic program,” she said. “I feel confident with the team we have.”

Although Tomlinson-Keasey was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer several years ago, she said her resignation had nothing to do with her health. She said she hopes to work on a book while on sabbatical about the planning, funding and construction of UC Merced.

Tomlinson-Keasey, a developmental psychologist, said she was proud that UC Merced students have proven to be among the top in the UC system.

“In our first class of 900 – plus or minus – we have a Truman Scholar finalist,” she said. “[There are] four finalists from the UC system and one of them is from Merced, with a student population of 900.”

Chancellor Henry Yang, who attended UC Merced’s convocation last fall, said Tomlinson-Keasey has “played a vital and historic role” in founding the newest UC campus.

“I have been honored to get to know Carol as a fellow chancellor, and even before that when she served as system-wide vice provost for academic initiatives,” Yang said. “I have great respect for her dedication to students, her commitment to excellence, her energy and enthusiasm and most of all her vision for the future of the Merced campus.

Before Aug. 31, when she officially resigns, Tomlinson-Keasey said she would like to put plans for UC Merced’s medical school in a stronger position.

“I certainly am trying to get the medical school to a place where everyone knows about it and is talking about it,” she said. “We know that it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but I think there are certain milestones we want to accomplish before I leave.”

The UC will soon begin a national search to find a replacement. Tomlinson-Keasey said the UC will look at administrators and faculty both within the UC system and at large, and will hopefully select a new chancellor by the beginning of the school year next fall.

“Certainly, we have a lot less ambiguity than we did two years ago,” Tomlinson-Keasey said. “I feel like there’s a stability that certainly hasn’t been before.”