UC Berkeley News
NewsCenter
Today's news & events
News by email
For the news media
Calendar of events
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Tributes to Clark Kerr

"In my view he was the architect of the system of public higher education in California, which became the model for the United States. He was also Berkeley’s first chancellor and spent a good deal of time assuring Berkeley’s academic excellence, which had been sorely tested by the loyalty oath fight. In addition, he was very sensitive to student concerns, especially the provision of campus housing for them."
-I. Michael Heyman
Chancellor, UC Berkeley, 1980-90
I. Michael Heyman

John Hennessy
"Clark Kerr earned his master’s degree at Stanford’s School of Education and, of course, we are proud of that association. But, moreover, we are proud to call ourselves educators in large part because of the honor and excellence he brought to the nation’s colleges and universities. Dr. Kerr was instrumental in building an educational system that is the envy of the rest of the world. His contributions live on, and I can think of no more fitting memorial than for all citizens to rededicate themselves to the support of the nation’s schools — in every community, at every level — during these challenging times for the educational system."
-John L. Hennessy
President, Stanford University

"Clark Kerr is one of that very rare breed that is simultaneously visionary, capable of translating his visions into practical programs and actions, and able to manage those programs and actions once they are in place. He was above all a brave man who stayed the course in the face of vilification from both left and right during his years of leadership."
-Neil J. Smelser
Professor emeritus, Sociology
Neil Smelser

Martin Meyerson
"I was surprised as well as honored to be chosen by Clark Kerr as an acting chancellor of UC Berkeley at the end of 1964. The tasks we shared in the unchartered academic turbulence of the time changed my life and his life but not our values and interests in universities. Clark had this extraordinary devotion to professors, to students, to academic freedom — as he exhibited again and again during his career — and devotion to both the economy and the society of California and this great university. He was one of those great rarities, an academic executive who was a superb scholar, both in economics and industrial relations and also, of course, in higher education and the nature of learning."

-Martin Meyerson
President emeritus, University of Pennsylvania
Acting chancellor, UC Berkeley, 1965

"He was the greatest American university president of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the most intellectual presidents of a university here or anywhere."
-Sheldon Rothblatt
Former director, Center for Studies in Higher Education

David Ward
"In an age when the terms ‘visionary’ and ‘genius’ are too easily used to describe the unworthy, they clearly embody the very essence of Clark Kerr. Every student and every campus leader alive today owes Kerr a great debt of gratitude — for it was his vision, and his bold determination that helped create the modern university, and the idea that students from all walks of life should have access to college.
 
It is no understatement to say that Kerr helped create public higher education in America with his sweeping design of what we now know as the University of California System, the California State University System, and the California Community College System. This postsecondary system — designed for both broad access and excellence in research and teaching — not only transformed educational opportunity in California for several generations, but also transformed public higher education nationally as it was emulated and copied by other states. He did, however, live long enough to become a respected critic of some of the outcomes of his proposals."
-David Ward
President, American Council on Education

"It has been my privilege to have known and worked with Clark Kerr for 43 years. He was my friend, mentor, role model, and colleague, and I join with his countless friends and admirers worldwide in saying how deeply he will be missed. He was a quiet, unassuming, wise, courageous, and independent man whose influence on American higher education, and especially the University of California, for the greater part of the 20th century is without peer. It is very unlikely that we will see his kind again. Fortunate were we at the University of California that Clark Kerr devoted to this institution so much of his talent, energy, and remarkable life."
-David Pierpont Gardner
UC President Emeritus
David Pierpont Gardner

Jack Peltason
"No other university president of the 20th century was as influential or as celebrated as Clark Kerr. Renowned for his scholarship in the field of higher education, several generations of presidents and academic administrators have greatly benefitted from his experience and counsel. He taught us not only how to lead great universities but, perhaps more importantly, how to act with courage and dignity. It was an honor and privilege to have known and worked with him."
-Jack W. Peltason
UC President Emeritus