Former UC Berkeley Chancellor Heyman known for dedication to university

Ira Michael Heyman, chancellor of UC Berkeley from 1980 to 1990, died at home on Saturday after an extended battle with emphysema. He was 81.

During his tenure as chancellor, Heyman focused on a wide variety of issues, most notably increasing diversity, spearheading the campus’s first major fundraising campaign — which raised $450 million — and reorganizing the biological science departments on campus.

Heyman served as a faculty member on campus starting in 1959 and was a professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

“Mike Heyman was a great and inspiring leader whose vision helped shape the future of the Berkeley campus,” said Chancellor Robert Birgeneau in an email to the campus. “Simply, he believed that Berkeley should be second to none, and open to all.”

As chancellor, Heyman aggressively pursued a more diverse UC Berkeley, raising the percentage of students of color in the student body from 21 to 57 percent, according to Heyman’s profile on the campus School of Law website. He also oversaw the replacement of aging research facilities and a tripling of the money given by private donors.

According to John Cummins, a former associate chancellor who worked closely with Heyman, Heyman was “a born leader — an exceptional individual in every respect.”

“He was a towering figure, a savvy politician, a great supporter of the underdog, a magnanimous personality whom so many people loved and respected,” Cummins said.

Heyman’s tenure as chancellor came at a challenging time for the university, according to Cummins. Heyman dealt with the issues of protest and free speech on campus, most notably the enormous anti-apartheid protests of 1985 and 1986 in which encampments were removed.

“They built shantytowns in front of California Hall that had to be removed because of health and fire concerns,” said Cummins. “It necessitated a major police involvement — there were around 400 officers on campus to remove the encampment.”

Soon after the student protests in 1986, Heyman encouraged the UC Board of Regents to divest from companies working with or in South Africa. According to Cummins, this, combined with the massive student protest, expedited the UC’s $3 billion divestment from South Africa.

After his time as chancellor ended, Heyman took the reins at the Smithsonian Institution, serving as secretary and overseeing more than 6,000 employees and 16 museums, according the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Heyman was recently awarded with the UC Presidential Medal for “his significant and extensive life-long contributions to the university and public service,” according to Birgeneau’s messsage.

In March 2010, the campus School of Law launched a drive to establish the I. Michael Heyman Distinguished Professorship Chair and name the school’s new patio the I. Michael Heyman Terrace, according to Birgeneau’s message.

Heyman is survived by his wife Elizabeth and son James Heyman. The family is planning a private interment, and a public memorial service will be held on campus at a later date.