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A history of UC Berkeley's chancellors

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JULY 04, 2017

In 1952, UC Berkeley discarded a presidential system and adopted a chancellorship. As Carol Christ settles into her new position as chancellor, The Daily Californian looked back at the chancellors that made campus what it is today.

(Editor’s note: Former chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ chancellorship has been reviewed in detail in another Daily Cal article.)

Clark Kerr (1952-1958)

Clark Kerr, more commonly known as the name of a familiar residence hall, was UC Berkeley’s first chancellor and also went on to become the 12th president of the University of California. Kerr joined campus as a professor of economics and industrial relations in 1945 during the Cold War, and garnered respect for his firm resistance to the UC Regent’s anti-communist loyalty oath for faculty.

He also founded the Institute of Industrial Relations, now known as the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.

In addition to his advocacy for universal access to higher education, Kerr is also famously remembered for saying the three major issues on campus were, “sex for the students, athletics for the alumni and parking for the faculty.”

Glenn T. Seaborg (1958-1961)

UC Berkeley’s second chancellor was a Nobel laureate and one of the nation’s most renowned chemists, known for his contributions to nuclear chemistry and national science policy.

Seaborg helped lead the Manhattan Project and co-discovered the element plutonium-238 and -239 and nine other transuranium elements — including seaborgium — according to a 1999 campus press release. Seaborg subsequently won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with UC Berkeley colleague Edwin McMillan.

His chancellorship saw a period of increased freedom of expression and milestones met for campus athletics. He went on to be appointed chair of the Atomic Energy Commission by former president John F. Kennedy and later served as an adviser to 10 U.S. presidents.

Edward W. Strong (1961-1965)

As chancellor, Strong founded the Department of Sociology and helped establish the computer science department, according to a Bancroft Library archive.

During a 1964 visit to David Rockefeller at the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, he yielded more than $250,000, helping make improvements to International House and The Bancroft Library.

The Free Speech Movement took place under Strong’s chancellorship. Thousands of students gathered on Sproul Plaza to protest the ban on campus political activities. Nearly 800 students were arrested for occupying Sproul Hall on Dec. 2, 1964, the largest mass arrest on a national university campus at the time.

After months of protests as a part of the Free Speech Movement, Strong resigned amid controversy over his handling of free speech activities on campus.

Martin Meyerson (1965)

Meyerson, who was serving as dean of the College of Environmental Design, took over as acting chancellor — but is not counted as one of UC Berkeley’s 11 chancellors — following Strong’s unceremonious resignation. Meyerson is esteemed for his handling of the aftermath — relieving tensions between the campus and students during the latter half of the 1964-65 academic year.

Despite the faculty’s preference for his appointment to chancellorship, the UC Regents selected another candidate. Meyerson went on to become the president of other institutions, such as the State University of New York and the University of Pennsylvania.

Roger Heyns (1965-1971)

Heyns is often remembered as the chancellor of the turbulent ’60’s, as he dealt with the unfinished Free Speech Movement. Heyns’ chancellorship was characterized by pressures from both protestors and the governor of California of the time, Ronald Reagan, according to the New York Times.

During Heyns’ chancellorship, the administration proposed a plan to turn People’s Park into an athletic field. The protest in reaction to this proposal — and the subsequent police riot that resulted — is now known as “Bloody Thursday,” with police opening fire into the crowd, leaving dozens injured and one student dead.

Heyns tenure saw the successful completion of various projects, including the Moffitt Undergraduate Library and the University Art Museum, according to a Bancroft Library archive. The Educational Opportunity Program was also implemented during this time.

Albert H. Bowker (1971-1980)

Bowker came to campus with substantial experience in higher education from his time at Stanford University and City University of New York, though he inherited a campus still shaken from Bloody Thursday.

The chancellor, who possessed a “statistician’s quick mind and a dry wit with a dash of cynicism” — according to the New York Times also had to confront state budget reductions. In response, Bowker created the UC Berkeley Foundation and raised enough funds to establish the Bechtel Engineering Center and Minor Hall, which houses the optometry and health sciences departments.

Despite general loss in state support, especially in funding, Bowker is remembered for keeping the campus stable.

Ira Michael Heyman (1980-1990)

Throughout his 10-year run as chancellor, the longest in campus history, Heyman advocated for underrepresented minorities, bringing the percentage of non-white undergraduates from 27 percent to 51 percent, according to a campus press release.

In attempt to revitalize the biological sciences, four science building projects were put into place including the renovation of the Valley Life Sciences Building, which cost $100 million, according to the press release. A third of the funding was brought in through private donations. In fact, under Heyman the campus saw a drastic increase in private funding.

Chang-Lin Tien (1990 – 1997)

When Tien took the chancellorship in 1990, he became the first Asian to be at the top of a major research university in the United States. Before becoming chancellor, Tien was a professor in the campus Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Tien’s chancellorship was one of the campus’s most prosperous periods. When state funding to campus dropped severely and 27 percent of active faculty members departed the campus within four years, Tien recruited top tier professionals. His fundraising campaign, “The Promise of Berkeley — Campaign for the New Century,” raised more than $1 billion from 1996 to 2001, according to a campus press release.

A well-known advocate of affirmative action, Tien also established Berkeley Pledge, a program meant to strengthen academic performance of students in Berkeley public schools and surrounding school districts.

The Haas School of Business, the Main Stacks of Doe Library, Soda Hall and the Tang Center were also all constructed under Tien’s leadership.

Among students, Tien was popular for his school pride and approachability. He was frequently seen around campus, at football games or delivering cookies to students in the library during finals week, as the Daily Cal reported in 2012.

Robert M. Berdahl (1997 – 2004)

After serving as president at University of Texas at Austin from 1993-1997, Berdahl joined campus as chancellor in July 1997 and stayed with the campus until 2004 and returned to academic scholarship.

His chancellorship saw all-time high graduation rates for the time, and higher female representation in entering classes, according to the Berkeleyan. He also launched major research initiatives, including the Health Sciences Initiative, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research.

Berdahl, however, was accused of threatening free speech after campus administration threatened to suspend the privileges of Students for Justice in Palestine and suspend student protestors for a year for occupying Wheeler Hall, as reported by the Daily Cal.

Robert J. Birgeneau (2004 – 2013)

Birgeneau also dealt with controversies during his tenure.

Emails by the chancellor showed that Birgeneau did not object to police use of batons during Occupy Cal protest in November 2011, as reported by The Daily Cal. During the Occupy Cal demonstrations, hundreds of protesters set up tents on Sproul Plaza and locked arms so police could not access the tents. The police officers, however, used batons and force to get through protesters and break the chain of linked arms.

Upon announcement of his resignation, students told Daily Cal in an interview that they were not too surprised, specifically pointing at his response to the Occupy Cal protests.

Beside a number of controversies, Birgeneau is remembered for fighting for civil rights during his time as chancellor and establishing the Middle Class Access Plan in 2011 — a financial aid plan meant to help middle class families.

The world has changed immensely since 1952. Over the course of these chancellors the campus has evolved in equal magnitude.

Christine Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Christine Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @christinejlee17.

JULY 05, 2017