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Vice Chancellor Joseph Watson to Retire
He received an award for 40 years of service last week.

By Ioana Patringenaru | October 16, 2006

After 40 years of service at UCSD as a top administrator, a Provost and an organic chemist, Vice Chancellor Joseph Watson will retire at the end of this academic year.

Watson became Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs in 1981. He had been the founding Provost of Thurgood Marshall College from 1970 to 1981. Last week, he received an award for his 40 years of service on campus.

“Dr. Watson is a UCSD institution whose contributions to this university are immeasurable,” Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said in her Friday campus-wide announcement of Watson’s retirement.

Joe Watson
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox with Vice Chancellor Joseph Watson at this year's Service Awards ceremony.
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“His institutional memory has been invaluable to me and his dedication to educating young people as tomorrow's leaders is evident in decisions he has made throughout his career,” Fox added.

Vice Chancellor Watson always put students first, said Steven Relyea, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs.  For example, he fought for more financial aid and for more housing.

“He’s just the biggest advocate for students at UCSD,” Relyea said.

Establishing TritonLink as a portal for student services was one of Watson’s recent accomplishments, Relyea said. He dreamed of creating a Web site that would be an electronic one-stop shop for students’ academic and social needs, Relyea said. TritonLink has had a positive impact on tens of thousands of students and their parents, he added.

TritonLink was really a joint partnership between Student Affairs and Business Affairs, Watson said. It had become clear that UCSD should use technology more to better serve all students, he added. Recently, the portal launched a waiting list system. As a result, this school year, there were virtually no lines at the Registrar and academic department offices, he said.

Watson also has been instrumental in taking UCSD from Division III to Division II athletics, Relyea said. Not everyone was convinced that the move was a good idea, he added. But Watson was a strong advocate and made the change happen. “His drive and leadership led to having a very outstanding program,” Relyea said. UCSD recently defeated UCLA for the first time in a men’s water polo game, he pointed out.

Athletics are an integral part of campus life, Watson said. “Students want the excitement and pride,” he said. Also, UCSD had become a victim of its own success in Division III. It was so good, in fact, that fewer and fewer teams were willing to play against the Tritons, he said, adding that California’s inter-collegiate athletics body also asked UCSD to join Division II. The university agreed in 2000.

Meanwhile, Watson is the most senior Vice Chancellor on campus, Relyea said. “It’s just going to be a lot of leadership and knowledge that walks out the door when he retires,” he said.

Asked to look back on his 40-year career, Watson said he was proud of the university’s career services. Officials decided in the early 1980s to make an investment to prepare students for their future after graduation, he said. They made financial aid an integral part of career services and built the Career Services Center in the heart of campus.

Watson also was involved with the construction of the Price Center. Officials wanted it to be the living room of the campus, he said. They knew they had succeeded when a couple of years later, a campus demonstration started there. Watson added he was proud of the campus’ other facilities, such as RIMAC. “We made a major investment in recreation and sports for student life,” he said. He also said he was proud that UCSD sends more students abroad than any other UC campus.

Watson also reminisced about his official first day on campus, in July 1966. He was an assistant professor of organic chemistry back then. A young woman stopped him and asked him who he was. He answered then asked her who she was. Her name was Angela Davis. She is now a well-known activist and a professor at UC Santa Cruz.

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