Office of the President of UAB, 1969-

Immediate Predecessor:

Office of the Executive Vice President, 1968-1969

Immediate Successor:


Reporting Hierarchy:

1969-1976: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees;
1976- : Chancellor of The University of Alabama System and The University of Alabama Board of Trustees

Note: The UAB president reports to The University of Alabama Board of Trustees and, since 1976, also to the chancellor of The University of Alabama System. The president works in conjunction with the presidents of the other two System institutions, The University of Alabama (UA) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).


Joseph F. Volker, 1969-1976
(Acting) George W. Campbell, 1976-1977
S. Richardson Hill, Jr., 1977-1987
(Acting) Charles A. McCallum, Jr., 1986-1987
Charles A. McCallum, Jr., 1987-1993
J. Claude Bennett, 1993-1996
(Interim) Paul Hardin, III, 1997
W. Ann Reynolds, 1997-2002
(Interim) Malcolm Portera, 2002
Carol Z. Garrison, 2002-2012
(Interim) Richard B. Marchase, 2012-2013
Ray L. Watts, 2013-


The University of Alabama at Birmingham became an independent entity within the new three-campus University of Alabama System in 1969. Previously, it had functioned as a branch campus of the Tuscaloosa-based University of Alabama. The remarkable growth of programs in Birmingham and the swift evolution of the campus from two educational centers into an integrated, urban university was phenomenal. The development of the Office of President of UAB, with its roots as a vice presidential office of The University of Alabama, reflects the growth and evolution of the campus.

In 1966, President Frank Rose and The University of Alabama Board of Trustees elevated the Birmingham Extension Center, which had been in operation since 1936, to the degree-granting College of General Studies and joined it with the University's Medical Center to form the "University of Alabama in Birmingham." The Medical Center had been founded in Birmingham in 1945, when the Medical College of Alabama was moved from Tuscaloosa and changed from a two-year, basic-science program to a four-year, degree-granting program. Although the two Birmingham units were given the UAB designation in 1966, they still functioned as a component of The University of Alabama.

The Office of Vice President for Birmingham Affairs eventually evolved into the Office of the President of an independent UAB. In 1966 Dr. Joseph F. Volker, vice president for Health Affairs, was given administrative responsibilities over the campus and was elevated to vice president for Birmingham Affairs. After this administrative change, the dean of the College of General Studies reported to Dr. Volker. After 1968, the vice president for Health Affairs and the new vice president for Fiscal Affairs also reported to him. In 1968, Dr. Volker's title changed to executive vice president, and in December 1968 as his administrative responsibilities increased with the growing autonomy of the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He turned over the duties of vice president for Health Affairs to Dr. S. Richardson Hill, Jr. As vice president for Birmingham Affairs and later as executive vice president, Dr. Volker reported directly to the president of The University of Alabama.

On June 16, 1969, Alabama Governor Albert P. Brewer announced the formation of the autonomous University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB), one of three independent institutions within the new University of Alabama System. At the same time, Governor Brewer announced that Dr. Joseph F. Volker, who had served as the chief administrative officer in Birmingham since 1966, would become the first president of UAB. The new president reported directly to the Board of Trustees, composed of two members from each congressional district in Alabama, and had responsibility for the university's budgets, space, and academic programs. At the time of its independence in 1969, UAB consisted of the six health-related schools, the hospital, and the College of General Studies, and it was the only degree-granting, public four-year institution in the City of Birmingham. Thus, in a relatively brief period of time, a disparate set of programs evolved into a comprehensive, urban university.

In 1984, in an attempt to better distinguish the university from the two other autonomous campuses within the System, the Board of Trustees approved a change of the designation of the University of Alabama in Birmingham to that of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Since 1969, UAB has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment, programs offered, and numbers of faculty. By 1994, when the university celebrated its 25th anniversary, UAB was a comprehensive urban institution offering education to a wide range of students at the baccalaureate, doctoral, and professional levels. Programs are currently offered through its seven health-related and six academic schools and through the graduate school. The university also offers numerous credit and non-credit courses through special programming targeted for the non-traditional student. UAB has a student enrollment of over 16,200 and is the largest employer in Birmingham. Through the Academic Health Center, UAB is also a major provider of primary, secondary, and tertiary health care through its hospitals, research centers and institutes, and neighborhood health clinics. The Office of President continues to function as the highest administrative office of UAB.

Dr. Volker remained president of UAB until 1976 when he was named as the first chancellor of the three-campus University of Alabama System. Vice President of University College George W. Campbell served as acting president while a search was undertaken for Dr. Volker's successor. The Board of Trustees soon chose Vice President for Health Affairs S. Richardson Hill, Jr., as UAB's second president. Dr. Hill served as president from February 1, 1977, until March 1987, the longest presidential tenure in the history of the university.  Hill, who took a sabbatical from his presidential duties during his final year, was succeeded by Vice President for Health Affairs Charles McCallum, Jr. Dr. McCallum served first as acting president from September 1, 1986, until April 2, 1987, when he became the third president of UAB. President McCallum retired effective September 30, 1993, and was succeeded by the chair of the Department of Medicine Dr. J. Claude Bennett. Dr. Bennett served as the university's fourth president from October 1, 1993, until his resignation on December 31, 1996. The University of Alabama Board of Trustees then appointed Mr. Paul Hardin, III, chancellor emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as interim president during the national search for Bennett's replacement.

On July 17, 1997, Dr. W. Ann Reynolds, chancellor of the City University of New York, was named president-elect after her selection by the Board of Trustees. When Dr. Reynolds assumed office as fifth president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham on September 15, 1997, she became the first female president in the history of the three-campus University of Alabama System and the first president of UAB without a previous association to the university. Reynolds served as president until May 2002 and was succeeded by University of Alabama System Chancellor Dr. Malcolm Portera, who served as interim president during the summer of 2002. On September 1, 2002, Dr. Carol Z. Garrison became UAB's sixth president. Dr. Garrison was once a nurse in University Hospital, obtained a master's degree in nursing from UAB in 1976, and taught in the School of Nursing until 1978.  After a ten-year tenure, Dr. Garrison stepped down as UAB president on August 16, 2012.  The Chancellor and the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Richard B. Marchase as interim UAB President effective August 21, 2012.  Dr. Marchase was UAB's vice president for Research and Economic Development and had previously served as chair of the UAB Department of Cell Biology.  He joined the UAB faculty in 1986. 

On February 8, 2013, the Board of Trustees selected Dr. Ray L. Watts as the seventh president of UAB.  Dr. Watts obtained an undergraduate degree from the UAB School of Engineering and his medical degree from Washington University.  Watts was the first president of UAB to have obtained an undergraduate degree from the university. Dr. Watts returned to UAB in 2003 and later served as chair of the UAB Department of Neurology.  At the time of his selection as president, he was UAB's Senior Vice President and dean of the School of Medicine.

This page created 1996 and last updated by Tim L. Pennycuff on 20 December 2018.

Copyright:  The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.