Acting University of Hawaii President David McClain and regents Chairwoman Patricia Lee.

Interim president
Mcclain praised

University colleagues
laud McClain as an able
and unassuming leader

Fired president Dobelle speaks

He doesn't drive a flashy sports car, he didn't buy a $1.4 million home and he's not likely to order lavish renovations of College Hill.

When the regents of the University of Hawaii tapped David McClain as the interim replacement for fired UH President Evan Dobelle, they couldn't have picked a person more unlike the university's brash former chief executive, observers say.

McClain -- who has served as UH vice president of academic affairs for the past year -- has built his reputation as a top-flight academic and as a consensus-building administrator.

McClain's quiet and effective management style has attracted the attention of Gov. Linda Lingle, who said yesterday that the regents should consider the 58-year-old McClain as a permanent replacement for Dobelle.

Longtime colleague David Ramsour said McClain is "a man with no guile ... and in my estimation he does not play politics."

"I think he'll be a healing force at the university. If there are rifts, he seems to be the kind of person who can bring reconciliation very easily," said Ramsour, a former chief economist for the Bank of Hawaii who now lives in Dallas.

McClain said it is premature to say whether he would apply for the post. He said his focus now is to serve the university as its acting president.

The university will wait to let things settle down before beginning a search for a permanent replacement, board Chairwoman Patricia Lee said yesterday.

An economist by training, McClain joined the University of Hawaii in 1991 when he was named the Henry A. Walker Jr. Distinguished Professor of Business Enterprise. Between 2000 and 2003 he served as dean of the College of Business, where he helped raise the visibility of the business school in the local community and increased its reputation in the academic world.

During McClain's tenure as business school dean, the college added a dozen new faculty members and increased the number of internships to 400 from 40, according to a recent article in the business school's quarterly magazine.

The business school also was consistently ranked among the top 25 graduate schools in international business. U.S News & World Report recently ranked the school's undergraduate international business program as the 12th best in the nation.

"Having lived here a number of years, and having made the kinds of contacts that he has, has to be a plus on the balance sheets," said Leroy Laney, economics professor at Hawaii Pacific University and former chief economist at First Hawaiian Bank.

"He'd be an excellent person to work for and to work with. I don't think they would come up with someone more qualified."

Colleagues believe that McClain's collaborative style will serve him well as acting president. Dobelle's critics said McClain's approach represents a fresh departure from that of his predecessor.

When he was named UH president in 2001, Dobelle generated much criticism when renovation costs to the president's residence soared to $1 million. Dobelle, who drives a Porsche convertible, also raised eyebrows when he acquired a five-bedroom home in Portlock the following year for $1.4 million.

Dobelle sold the Portlock home last August for $1.28 million, state land records show.

By contrast, McClain enjoys a relatively modest lifestyle, which includes a residence in Kailua. He commutes to the Manoa campus in a Lexus sedan.

"What is needed is leadership that is not identical to Dobelle's," said Amy Agbayani, director of student equity, excellence and diversity at UH-Manoa. Agbayani is a co-author of the July 2003 "Dangerous Equations" article in the Star-Bulletin that criticized Dobelle's management.

Agbayani, who said the UH system has a number of administrators qualified to serve as Dobelle's permanent replacement, also described McClain as a skillful administrator.

She said she recently worked with McClain in the controversial reassignment of popular Leeward Community College coordinator Lucy Gay. Gay, who served as academic chairwoman for the Waianae satellite campus, was transferred to the main Leeward campus last year in a move criticized by Waianae residents.

According to Agbayani, McClain worked closely with community groups to find a solution that allowed Gay to remain at the Waianae campus while addressing the concerns of administrators.

David McClain

Acting university of Hawaii president

>> Age: 58

>> Appointed UH interim vice president for research, a newly created position, in February 2003 with a salary of $237,000.

>> Previously dean of the UH-Manoa College of Business Administration and First Hawaiian Bank Distinguished Professor of Management and Leadership.

>> Doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1974.

>> Tenured professor in Boston University's Department of Finance and Economics through the 1980s.

>> Joined UH-Manoa in 1991 as the College of Business Administration's Henry A. Walker Distinguished Professor of Business Enterprise.

>> Appointed dean of the college in 2000.

>> Under his leadership, the UH international business program was ranked by U.S. News and World Report "as one of the top 20 graduate programs of its kind in the nation."


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