Gone but not forgotten
Former CSULB President F. King Alexander says he has been busy since starting at LSU.
Some days, he’s touring sugar cane fields and learning first-hand how it’s refined. Others, he’s meeting with the White House Committee on Higher Education.
Then there are Saturdays, when he joins thousands of fans in rooting on Louisiana State University’s purple-and-gold-clad football team, the Tigers.
For former Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander, his transition to becoming the LSU President and Chancellor has been hectic.
“I’ve been on a fast-moving treadmill since early June,” Alexander said. “It’s been a fast, time-consuming period. I’m looking forward to the holiday break.”
Since leaving The Beach, Alexander replaced former LSU President and Chancellor John Lombardi last summer.
As president and chancellor of LSU, Alexander oversees 10 institutions: four universities, two medical schools, a network of hospitals and health clinics, a biomedical research center, an agricultural center and a healthcare services system.
Although he is back in the south, near his hometown of Louisville, Ken., Alexander said he misses Long Beach’s warm, sunny weather and the ocean breeze.
“Coming here during the summer, there was a lot more humidity and a lot more bugs,” he said. “But that comes with the territory.”
He said his time at The Beach has prepared him for the unique challenges currently facing the LSU system.
“[As CSULB president] I was fortunate to do a lot of system-wide initiatives,” he said. “I was able to cover a lot of ground and represent the system in a lot of different ways. In some ways, [my current role] is similar to the role I played under former Cal State University Chancellor Charles Reed.”
Alexander said that beyond granting degrees, the LSU system plays a large role in aiding public health in a state that has the nation’s highest obesity rate at 34.7 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s a lot vested in our medical centers, and we’ve got a lot to do since we tend to be on the high side of most of the health issues in the country,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
There are also several agricultural centers in the LSU system, which work with farmers throughout the state.
“Agriculture is a large part of Louisiana’s economy, particularly in unique areas, such as rice and sugar cane,” he said. “It connects you with every small town in the state. It’s not something that’s foreign to me.”
One of the biggest differences for Alexander, though, might be the amount of support LSU’s football team has.
“Having 100,000 people watching your football game every weekend is not similar [to CSULB],” he said. “You have to be a football fan when you’re in the Southeast, especially when you’re in a place like this. Two hundred thousand people come to your campus but only 100,000 have tickets. The rest tailgate in every open space on campus.”
In spite of the differences, Alexander said that there are similarities between LSU and CSULB.
Alexander said that student count in the LSU system and CSULB are similar, with the LSU system enrolling 47,000 students and CSULB enrolling 37,000.
The fundraising is similar too, he said, as both CSULB and LSU fundraise roughly $30 million annually.
“CSULB is a big, major university,” he said. “We underestimate how good it is. I know our graduation rate hit 60 percent. When based on enrollment, it should be closer to 42 percent.”
Alexander said he hasn’t been following CSULB’s presidential search, but he was asked what qualities he thought his replacement should have before he left.
“We need somebody who’s not looking to retire,” he said. “Long Beach is a very attractive place for someone who is looking to end their career.”
Alexander said that even as he settles into his new obligations, he will always have good memories from his time at CSULB.
“We all miss everybody in Long Beach,” he said. “I will always be a supporter of our students and a supporter of Cal State Long Beach. I wish all the students luck on their finals.”