19 July 2006
Robert Kerley, former vice chancellor for administration, died July 7 of congestive heart disease at his home in Walnut Creek. He was 86.
Kerley began work as assistant business manager at Berkeley in 1954; six years later he became assistant to the vice president of governmental relations in UC's Office of the President, a post he held until 1964. Following a period spent working at universities outside California, Kerley returned to Berkeley in 1972 as vice chancellor for administration and student affairs, retiring from that post in 1982.
During his tenure at Berkeley, he also headed campus development activities for a year, starting in 1981, and from 1982 to 1983 served as president of the UC Berkeley Foundation, which encourages private gifts and enlists fundraising volunteers from the private sector.
Upon his retirement in 1982, Kerley received the Berkeley Citation, the campus's highest honor. The California Alumni Association awarded Kerley the Alumni Citation for excellence in service in 1985.
Mike Smith, Berkeley's assistant chancellor for legal affairs, said Kerley was his mentor and boss and "a father figure for many people, including a generation of ASUC leaders who grew up under his tutelage." Smith described Kerley as a candid, honest, and no-nonsense man who was easy to communicate and work with.
Born in Oakland in August 1920, Kerley enlisted in World War II as a private in 1942 and left as a major in 1946, after serving in the 15th Army group in Italy. He earned a B.S. in business administration from Berkeley in 1951, and began his campus career three years later.
Following his stint at UCOP, he joined the University of Kentucky in 1964 as vice president for business affairs and treasurer; in the late '60s he served as vice president for administration and treasurer of Johns Hopkins University.
After retiring from Berkeley, Kerley served as a special assistant to the board chair and as chief financial officer for Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He also established his own consulting firm and traveled throughout the United States, helping college and university administrators manage business and financial matters.
Kerley was a founding member and chair of the governing board of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, a charter member of the governing board of the World Institute on Disability, and an advisory trustee of Alta Bates Medical Center. He also served as a member of the board of regents of John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, as a member and chair of the National Association of Colleges and Universities, and on the Council on Higher Education.
Kerley is survived by his wife, Betty; daughters Kathleen James of Dallas, Ore., Maureen Douglas of Bend, Ore., and Barbara Neill of Austin, Texas; son William Kerley of Austin; and stepchildren Katherine Strehl of Menlo Park and William Strehl of Noti, Ore. He had 10 grandchildren.
A memorial service is set for 11:30 a.m. (moved back from 10:30), Thursday, Aug. 10, in the Fireside Room of the Gateway Clubhouse at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, where Kerley was a 30-year resident. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Robert F. Kerley Scholarship Fund, 2080 Addison St., Berkeley, CA 94720 or to Hospice of Contra Costa County, 3470 Buskirk Ave., Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.
- Kathleen Maclay