‘A powerful guy’: UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus David Starkweather dies at age 87

Photo of David Starkweather

UC Berkeley public health Professor Emeritus David Starkweather, known for his expertise in hospital mergers and administration, along with his memorable personality, died March 11 at the age of 87.

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Starkweather was an administrative director at Stanford Hospital. He later returned to school, earned a doctorate at UCLA and joined UC Berkeley as an assistant professor of hospital administration in 1967.

Starkweather was also a co-founder of the joint MBA/MPH degree program between the campus School of Public Health and the Haas School of Business, where he served as a director.

“That program is still viable, it’s still operating today, and it’s been very successful,” said Thomas Rundall, a former colleague of Starkweather and UC Berkeley professor emeritus.

As an academic, Starkweather used his knowledge from school and his experience to develop studies about communication and coordination within hospitals, according to Rundall.

Starkweather then went on to focus on hospital mergers. When hospitals began to consider mergers, Starkweather was brought in as a consultant and wrote articles about mergers, eventually also writing a book, “Hospital Mergers in the Making,” Rundall added.

Rundall said the book was “the most comprehensive assessment” of mergers during that time and made Starkweather known across the nation and the world.

Additionally, Starkweather was a “student-oriented” professor who discussed career paths with students and encouraged them to follow their passions, similar to how he pursued his own passions, Rundall added.

“He was paying that forward to the next generations of students,” Rundall said. “He was enormously supportive of students and helped them get launched into their career.”

Mary Pittman, a former student of Starkweather’s who is now the president and CEO of the Public Health Institute, said he was empathetic as a professor and strongly supported students of color. Pittman added that she learned the responsibility public health and health care leaders had in giving back to their communities from Starkweather.

Starkweather was also known for his love of the outdoors and nature. Pittman said one of her favorite memories of Starkweather was him taking her on a 10-mile hike after a long day of work.

“He had so much energy and he got so invigorated by being in the outdoors,” Pittman said. “He could name every wildflower, he would talk about different rock formations.”

Rundall added that Starkweather brought “life” and “excitement” to others and made friends across the world.

Starkweather will not only be remembered at UC Berkeley but also across the country, according to Rundall.

“He was just a very active academic, and at the same time, strong family man and outdoorsman, so he kept a very, very busy life, all of which was just part of his powerful life force,” Rundall said. “He was a powerful guy in that way.”

Natalie Lu is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @natalie_c_lu.