Vice Chancellor Steve Olsen Leaving UCLA to Join J. Paul Getty Trust

January 26, 2018

Monday December 4, 2017

UCLA Office of the Chancellor

To: Deans, Directors, Department Chairs, Administrative Officers, and Faculty

Dear Colleagues:

Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steven A. Olsen has informed me that he will be leaving UCLA on June 30, 2018. Although this will be a great loss for our campus, I am proud to share the news that he has been named vice president, chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

For almost 20 years, Steve has ensured that UCLA’s plans, finances and infrastructure advance academic excellence and serve the needs of our students, employees and the people of California. His appreciation for UCLA’s mission has been foundational to his effectiveness as a leader and administrator. His outstanding record of accomplishments has earned him wide respect, not only on our campus but also throughout the University of California system and beyond.

A UCLA graduate, Steve returned to campus in 1999 as vice chancellor of finance and budget. In 2006, Acting Chancellor Norman Abrams added Capital Programs to Steve’s portfolio of responsibilities, and in 2015 I asked him to assume responsibility for Corporate Financial Services and Campus Service Enterprises. Today, Steve oversees approximately 650 staff members.

There is no element of our campus that has not benefited from Steve’s leadership. He has been a trusted adviser to three chancellors, as well as dozens of deans and other academic leaders. He is a dedicated mentor who has hired and promoted talented associate vice chancellors, directors and managers throughout his organization and elsewhere at UCLA.

In the financial arena, Steve led UCLA’s efforts to grow and diversify our core revenues, as well as to improve efficiency in energy use and other operations. This was especially important to UCLA’s ability to weather the financial crisis of 2008–13, when our state funding dropped by almost 40 percent. The plans and strategies he put in place starting in 2008 are today generating $400 million in new annual revenue. This has helped fund scholarships and fellowships, faculty recruitment and retention, research infrastructure and other institutional needs. In addition, Steve implemented more disciplined approaches to managing our assets and liabilities, including significant improvements to our investment strategies and their performance.

Steve has played major roles in every capital project at UCLA for more than a decade. He assigned a high priority to seismic and safety projects. The largest and most complex of these is the $365 million seismic renovation of the Center for the Health Sciences, which is scheduled for completion in 2020. In the forefront of planning UCLA’s transition to a residential campus, Steve has led the development of graduate student housing projects and the continuing expansion of undergraduate student housing.

In the health sciences, he has overseen the financing, planning and development of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, Geffen Hall, and the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building and Jules Stein Eye Institute renovations. Campuswide, he has overseen the development of more than 1 million gross square feet of research space, including eight new research buildings. And he led the renovation of Pauley Pavilion and the development of the Wasserman Football Center and the Mo Ostin Basketball Center.

No review of Steve’s accomplishments could be complete without mention of the essential role he played in every phase of the development of the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center. Although the project faced significant challenges, today it serves as a national model for how conference centers can significantly enhance universities’ academic programs.

Steve has also served as treasurer and finance committee chair of the Hammer Museum. He has played a key role in restructuring the museum’s endowment, negotiating and financing the purchase of the Occidental Petroleum Building and Hammer Museum Complex, gaining approval of a multi-phase capital improvement plan, and facilitating strong relations between the museum board and our campus leadership.

Prior to joining UCLA, Steve served as the chief deputy director of the California Department of General Services, deputy director of the California Department of Finance, principal consultant to the California State Senate and a program analyst for the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Personally, I will miss Steve’s wise counsel, incisive analyses, rock solid integrity and dry sense of humor. He has made lasting contributions to UCLA’s planning process, financial management and infrastructure. Please join me in congratulating him on his appointment to the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh and I intend to launch a national search for Steve’s successor, and we will soon announce the formation of a search advisory committee.


Gene D. Block