Samuel Merritt University President Plans to Retire

Oakland, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2018) — Sharon Diaz has announced that she intends to retire as president and chief executive officer of Samuel Merritt University (SMU) by January 2019, capping a 45-year career as an educational leader.

The SMU Board of Regents will conduct a national search for a new president and hopes to identify a qualified candidate by early fall.

“It’s been a great honor to serve Samuel Merritt University,” said Diaz. “I’m proud that the university has built a great reputation on which to grow.” 

Jonathan Brown, chair of the Board of Regents and president emeritus of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, praised Diaz for her service as SMU’s first president.

“President Diaz has boldly led this University into the 21st century, always keeping her eye on what was best for its students as well as for the wider community,” said Brown. “Thanks to her efforts, SMU graduates are well-prepared to face the rapid changes taking place in healthcare.”  

Since starting her career with the institution as a nursing instructor in 1973, President Diaz has led SMU through its transformation from a hospital-based diploma school of nursing to an accredited, nationally recognized health sciences university with academic programs across five disciplines. SMU celebrated its centennial in 2009 and now has more than 2,000 students enrolled at its three campuses and in online programs.

Among her most notable accomplishments was leading the effort in 2002 to bring the prestigious California College of Podiatric Medicine — now known as the California School of Podiatric Medicine — to SMU. And in 2007, the university opened a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Simulation Center (among the first in California to be internationally accredited) that engages all SMU students in simulation learning as part of their professional education.

Diversity became a major priority at SMU under President Diaz’ leadership. In addition to increasing enrollment and financial support for underrepresented students, Diaz created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2011 — considered remarkable for a school the size of SMU.

Contact: Debra Holtz, 510-409-7936,


Samuel Merritt University has been educating students since 1909 to become highly skilled healthcare practitioners who positively transform the experience of care in diverse communities.  More than 2,000 students are enrolled at SMU campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Mateo as well as in online programs.  The University offers bachelor’s degrees in nursing; master's degrees in nursing and physician assistant; and doctoral degrees in nursing practice, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and podiatric medicine.  Samuel Merritt University is affiliated with Sutter Health, a not-for-profit network providing comprehensive healthcare in more than 100 Northern California communities. For more information, visit





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