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EXECUTIVE PROFILE: Leroy Morishita, president of California State University, East Bay

  • March 12, 2012

By Ron Leuty
Business Times Reporter                   

HQ: Hayward.

Background: The product of a 40-acre fruit farm that his father and two uncles operated in Del Rey, southeast of Fresno, Morishita was named in January as the fifth president in 55 years of Cal State, East Bay. The 59-year-old Morishita replaced Mohammad Qayoumi, who became president of San Jose State University. Morishita is no stranger to the Cal State system — he spent 29 years at San Francisco State University, including stints as executive vice president and chief financial officer.

First job: As an 8 year old, nailing lids on peach boxes.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, University of California, Berkeley; master’s in counseling, San Francisco State; doctorate in administration, planning and social policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Residence: Oakland.

Business strategy
How’s business: There’s a big demand for access, but we have major budget problems. It makes it difficult to educate as many people who want a higher education.

Biggest challenge for your business at the moment: How do we continue to provide our high-quality education at what we hope would be affordable prices for students?

What’s going to change at your organization in the next year: We’re going to have to plan for some more budget reductions. Eighty to 85 percent of our budget is people. We’re going to see what we can do in terms of increasing revenue, if we possibly can.

Goal yet to be achieved: I am where I want to be. In terms of this place, there is a different goal: that every student who leaves this place, whether they’ve graduated or not, has grown, learned some new things and made themselves a better person.

How will you know that you’ve achieved it: From the stories of the students. They’ll be the ones telling us.

Management philosophy
Guiding principles for good management: Communicating with people and respecting people — everybody who works here — from the top professor and custodians and others at every level. Everybody has a role here.

Best way to keep competitive edge: To work collaboratively with people at the university, build a team and (build) toward a common goal to educate students.

Why people like working for you: I’m approachable, and I think I have a pretty good sense of humor.

Mentor: I’ve had a number. The most recent was Robert Corrigan at San Francisco State. He was very supportive in helping me get to this place.

Judgment calls
Best business decision: The acquisition of the Stonestown Apartments at San Francisco State (in 2005). That was 697 apartment units and 25 acres of land. Before that, we had only 100 acres of land.

Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: There’s a time to cut your losses, even when the thing you’re doing is the right thing. At San Francisco State, there was a lawsuit regarding construction and they had much deeper pockets, but we were right.

Toughest business decision: Leaving San Francisco State.

Biggest missed opportunity: I’m an optimist and I tend to look forward.

True confessions
Like best about job: The people. People are proud of the place, but they want it to be better.

Like least about job: Probably just the fact that we’ll have to deal with the budget cuts.

Pet peeve: Long emails.

Most respected competitor: (Organizations) like Southwest Airlines or FedEx that try to meet their customers’ needs and try to do the best with the people they have.

First choice for a new career: NBA basketball player, but I’m a little too old for that — or an NBA coach.

Most influential book: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” by Robert Pirsig, and “Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa.

Favorite cause: Education.

Favorite movie: “The Godfather.”

Favorite restaurant: Gary Danko.

Favorite way to spend free time: With my family.

On your iPod: I don’t own one.

Automobile: 2009 Lexus GS 350.

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