In January 2014, University of California regents thought they had a hustler in Steve Gamer, so much so that they hastily agreed to pay him the princely annual salary of $455,792 to become UCSD’s new vice chancellor of advancement. “As the San Diego campus prepares to launch a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Vice Chancellor-Advancement position is being reinstated in the Chancellor’s cabinet,” said a report that noted Gamer had “more than 20 years of experience in identifying, cultivating, and soliciting high net worth individuals, corporations, and foundations.” Gamer had been in a similar position at UCLA since 2002, and before that was planning and budgeting director for the Atlanta Jewish Federation and campaign director for the Madison Jewish Community Council, the report said. “It is critical that the new Vice Chancellor begin his appointment near the start of the calendar year so that he will become quickly engaged in the campus strategic planning initiative that has been in progress over the past year and prepare for the launch of the new fundraising campaign.”
Gamer was to oversee “approximately 220 staff and annual expenditures in excess of $25 million,” in UCSD’s big-dollar quest. By fall of last year, the school reported raising a record $177.5 million in fiscal year 2015, 20 percent more than the year before, still “far behind the upper echelon in private fundraising among universities,” according to an October 2 account in the Union-Tribune. “Gamer said he doesn’t plan to focus more on alumni donations, but rather to promote the university to the entire community,” the paper reported, adding that Gamer was planning to roll out a billion-dollar-plus fundraising campaign for the university this coming November.
But last month, UCSD was suddenly in as much of a hurry to get rid of Gamer as it had been to hire him. “This urgent request is in response to a need to execute the agreement in exchange for Mr. Gamer’s resignation effective March 1, 2016,” says a March 24 report to the regents from UC president Janet Napolitano. “The President of the University requests approval of a $135,072 separation payment ($177,031 severance minus $41,959 relocation repayment) in connection with the separation agreement. Under the terms of the proposed agreement, the payment would be made within 30 days of his resignation date of March 1, 2016.” The document goes on to reveal that “due to family obligations Mr. Gamer never relocated from Los Angeles to San Diego.” But he still accepted a $85,938 relocation allowance “to help cover the additional living expenses associated with having an apartment near the campus.” The report provides few details regarding Gamer’s abrupt departure, saying only, “the San Diego campus is in the final stages of planning the campus’ first major fundraising campaign in nearly ten years. Because of a change in strategy for the campaign, it is now agreed that it is in everyone’s interest that Mr. Gamer resign from his position.” It adds that “the campus placed Mr. Gamer on paid leave beginning January 13, 2016.” And Gamer didn’t leave without an additional cost, in the form of a $135,072 severance payment. “A separation payment is being requested due to Mr. Gamer’s 13-year tenure at University of California during which time he made numerous contributions at UCLA and UC San Diego,” says the document. “The Office of the General Counsel has been consulted on this action and concurs.”