In a time where much of the anger over academic woes has been directed toward administrators, Leroy Morishita has maintained an image of integrity.
After a 29-year tenure, executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Morishita will be leaving his home at SF State to become the interim president of Cal State East Bay. Morishita, 58, is best known for his role in the acquisition of University Park North and the development of the University’s physical master plan.
Considered by fellow administrators to be a huge asset to the University and integral part of the administrative team, Morishita’s reputation of being a friendly, honest and hard-working man will present the University a challenge in finding a comparable replacement.
“Dr. Morishita is a rare combination of visionary and pragmatist,” said President Robert A. Corrigan in a recent press release discussing Morishita’s departure. “(These are) qualities that will serve him well as East Bay’s leader, and qualities very much in demand during this most challenging time for public higher education in California.”
Morishita acknowledged his enthusiasm at his appointment to the new position by CSU Chancellor Charles Reed.
“It was quite humbling,” Morishita said. “It was very exciting. I’ve gotten well over a hundred emails from people around campus. They all congratulated me. They all said that they were going to miss me and that they are going to miss what I do for the University.”
Morishita’s long history at SF State began in 1978 when he worked as a counselor in the Education Opportunity Program, after which he attended Harvard University where he obtained his doctorate degree. He returned in 1984 to work in the admissions and records office doing analysis and enrollment projections.
It did not take long for Morishita to get noticed.
Don Scoble, the University vice president at the time and current vice president emeritus, saw enormous potential in Morishita.
“I recognized that he was an extraordinary talent,” Scoble said. “I asked the president if I could have Leroy come and work with me.”
In 2001, Morishita excelled and became the vice president of physical planning and developing.
Since then, he has won important battles for the University, particularly in the attainment of University Park North, which Morishita attributes as one of his greatest successes at SF State.
The acquisition added 25 acres and 697 apartments to the University.
The University budget, which Morishita admits has been his biggest challenge during his vice presidency, is another issue for which he has earned respect and recognition from his colleagues.
“He has refined the budget process,” Scoble said. “Among all the vice presidents in the system, he understands how the budget works. Even in a time of difficulty with resources shrinking, he has managed to keep the budget balanced and to minimize the pain.”
The ongoing issue of the budget is something that Morishita admits will challenge him at his new position.
“We’ll have to confront the budget issues and try to provide as much access as we can for students to come to CSU East Bay and further their education,” Morishita said. “Those are the two biggest challenges that I’m going to confront right away.”
In addition to combating budget woes, Morishita has taken on various other endeavors. He presides over the Academic Senate, chairs the CSU Risk Management Authority, and founded and co-chairs the campus sustainability committee — which he acknowledged as one of his many passions.
“We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint on the environment,” Morishita said. “I’m very proud that San Francisco State is now below our 1990 levels of our carbon emissions, which is the goal for 2020 for the state.”
Morishita, a Buddhist and regular practitioner of Tai Chi, has managed to preserve a reputation of honesty and likeability, and has been described as friendly, forthright, confident and supportive.
Throughout his long and varied experience as an administrator at SF State, Morishita learned that good character, above all, is a vital part of being an effective campus leader.
“You have to have a lot of integrity,” Morishita said. “You have to garner peoples’ trust and you have to be able to laugh at yourself and have a little humor.”
Morishita explained that he wanted to be remembered and respected for having “the highest integrity,” a revered quality that his colleagues admit will leave an undeniable void around campus.
“I told him this morning that I am sorry to see him leave,” Scoble said. “It won’t be the end of our friendship, but I’m sorry that he won’t be here as a friend and a colleague to talk to on a regular basis.”