SAN FRANCISCO — Carol T. Christ, a scholar of Victorian literature and former president of Smith College, was named the next chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley on Thursday and the first woman in the school’s 149-year history to hold the position.
The UC Board of Regents, the governing board of the system’s 10 schools, voted unanimously to approve Christ’s nomination and welcomed her with a standing ovation.
UC President Janet Napolitano called Christ “a remarkable person, a visionary and a first” and praised her as a tireless champion of gender equality and diversity.
Christ started her academic career as an assistant professor at Berkeley in 1970, at a time when only 3 percent of the faculty were women, and stayed on campus for the next 32 years holding a variety of positions from chair of the English Department to dean of humanities and ultimately executive vice chancellor, the UC president’s office said in a statement.
She then served as the president of Smith College from 2002 to 2013, when she retired but her hiatus didn’t last long. She returned to Berkeley in 2015 to become interim executive vice chancellor and provost.
“Berkeley transformed me and it transformed my understanding of education,” Christ told the Regents meeting, saying she was deeply honored “to lead Berkeley at this critical moment in its history.”
Christ will start her new position on July 1 with a base salary of $531,939, the UC president’s office said.
Christ will replace Nicholas Dirks, who resigned last August after critics alleged he was too lenient when handling sexual harassment cases involving several high-profile faculty members.
Christ did not refer to the scandals that tarnished the image of one of California’s leading public universities. She spoke of the financial challenges ahead at a time of decreased public funding and the need for Berkeley “to reimagine our financial model while always staying true to our public mission.”