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Robert N. Shelton Named RCSA President

Robert Shelton, Ph.D.
Robert Shelton, Ph.D.

Dr. Shelton, most recently executive director of the Phoenix-based Arizona Sports Foundation, also served as the 19th president of the University of Arizona, from 2006 to 2011.  At RCSA he succeeds Interim President Jack Pladziewicz, who is retiring.

During Shelton's tenure, UA set records for applications, enrollments, fundraising, research expenditures, student diversity and the academic strength of the incoming classes. At the Arizona Sports Foundation, Dr. Shelton engineered a major turnaround of the organization, restoring its financial stability and national reputation while expanding its philanthropic impact in the state.

RCSA is America’s second-oldest foundation. Formed in 1912 shortly after the Carnegie Corporation, it is America’s first foundation dedicated solely to funding science. Today RCSA continues to fund basic research in the physical sciences – physics, chemistry and astronomy – and closely related fields.

“RCSA is delighted to have Robert Shelton as its new president,” said Patrick Osmer, chair of RCSA’s Board of Directors. “He is a highly accomplished scientist with very broad experience in top executive positions in both major academic and philanthropic institutions. We look forward to the leadership he will provide for RCSA in its second century of supporting basic research in science.”

“From my earliest days as a research physicist I have admired RCSA’s mission and quality,” Shelton said. “Today I am acutely aware of the increasing challenges in the environment for funding and support of research at the very time when our future national well-being depends on robust scientific research and education. RCSA’s mission is becoming even more critical as it enters its second century.”

A native of Phoenix, Shelton is a physicist by training. He has spent much of his career in public education, with specific interests in research funding, intellectual property, higher education and the interface between research and teaching, the role of universities in economic development, and fostering multi-disciplinary/multi-institutional research.

Shelton was educated at Stanford University (B.S., 1970) and the University of California, San Diego (M.S., 1973; Ph.D., 1975). He began his academic career at UCSD as an assistant research physicist specializing in condensed matter physics.  After moving to Iowa State University in 1978, he was promoted to associate professor in 1981 and professor in 1984.

Shelton was a guest scientist at the Kernforschungsanlage in Juelich, Germany, and of the Japanese government at the Institute of Metals in Tokyo. He also was a visiting professor in the Département de Physique de la Matière Condensée at the Université de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland. He has been an active and productive scientist whose work has focused on collective electron effects in novel materials.

He returned to California as chair of the Department of Physics at UC Davis in 1987 and served in that capacity until 1990 when he was named vice chancellor for research. In 1996, Shelton joined the President’s Office at the University of California as vice provost for research.

He moved to Arizona from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was executive vice chancellor and provost for five years, the chief academic officer and chief operating officer, and was responsible for the conduct, coordination and quality of the university’s academic and research programs.

Shelton and his wife of more than 44 years, Adrian, met as undergraduates at Stanford. They have three adult children: Christian Shelton, an associate professor of computer science at UC Riverside; Cameron Shelton, an assistant professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College; and Stephanie Shelton Crossen, who is a fellow in pediatric endocrinology at Stanford University.

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