Robert Neal Shelton

Years: 2006-2011
Presidential Order: 19th President

Robert Neal Shelton became the 19th president of the University of Arizona when he began his appointment on July 1, 2006.

One of Shelton's priorities as president was to lead the University of Arizona in its quest to become one of the country's top public research universities, with a focus on enhancing the overall quality of the University while increasing diversity and ensuring that the UA is accessible to Arizona students, particularly first-generation college students. He embraced the University's land-grant status, its commitment to the people of Arizona and the important bond between the public and public research universities.

Shelton was educated at Stanford University (B.S., 1970) and the University of California at San Diego (M.S., 1973; Ph.D., 1975) and began his academic career at UCSD as an assistant research physicist in 1975. Moving to Iowa State University in 1978, he was promoted to associate professor in 1981 and professor in 1984. 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 came to the UA 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 was a guest scientist at the Kernforschungsanlage in Julich, 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.

Under Shelton’s leadership, a Transformation Plan was established to respond to the growing economic crisis affecting Arizona universities as well as other institutions across the nation. He also introduced Arizona Assurance, a program in which Arizona high school graduates from low-income families can attend the UA and graduate with little or no debt. The funding for the program comes from donors. 

Shelton stepped down from his post at the UA, effective Aug. 1, 2011, to become executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, which brings thousands of people to Arizona for two prominent football bowl games, the Fiesta Bowl and the Insight Bowl. The organization, based in Phoenix, is also one of Arizona's most successful charitable enterprises, supporting dozens of local organizations and sponsoring numerous events throughout the year.

Shelton and his wife of more than 40 years, Adrian A. Shelton, were 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, a pediatric medicine resident at Oregon Health Sciences University.