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UC Berkeley Press Release

Richard Holton, former Haas School dean and leader in numerous fields of business, dies at age 79

– Richard H. Holton, professor emeritus and former dean at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, died Monday, Oct. 24, at the age of 79 after battling cancer and Parkinson's disease. Holton was a leader in the fields of marketing, international business and entrepreneurship and left a lasting imprint in these areas at the Haas School.

On leave from the campus from 1963 to 1965, he served as U.S. assistant secretary of commerce and was dean of the Haas School from 1967 to 1975.

Richard Holton
Richard H. Holton

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Throughout his career, Holton focused on teaching, campus leadership and public service.

"Dick Holton was the consummate colleague - thoughtful, considerate, always willing to help and always concerned with the greater good of the school and the university," said Raymond Miles, an emeritus professor and former dean of the Haas School. But of all of Holton's contributions, he said, "none were more valuable than his self-effacing charm, his quiet good humor, and his tireless devotion."

Holton grew up in London, Ohio. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1947 with honors in economics. At Miami, he met Constance Minzey, and they married in 1947. They moved to Columbus, where he earned a master's degree in economics, and he then enrolled in the doctoral program in economics at Harvard University.

From 1951-52, Holton was assistant director of marketing projects at the Social Science Research Center at the University of Puerto Rico, work that led to his 1955 monograph, "Marketing Efficiency in Puerto Rico," written with J.K. Galbraith and others. He also was co-author with Richard Caves of another study, "The Canadian Economy: Prospect and Retrospect" (1959).

He was assistant professor of economics at Harvard from 1953 to 1957. In 1957, he came to UC Berkeley as an associate professor in the School of Business Administration (later renamed the Haas School of Business) and remained here for the rest of his career.

Holton in 1959 became director of the campus's Institute of Business and Economics Research and reorganized it to reflect the growing interest in business science. His own research resulted in a steady flow of publications in marketing policies and competition.

President John F. Kennedy appointed him assistant secretary of commerce in February 1963, and he remained in government service until February 1965, when he returned to UC Berkeley.

Holton's continuing interest in consumer protection resulted in a year's appointment by President Lyndon B. Johnson as chairman of the President's Consumer Advisory Council. He then served from 1968 to 1972 as chairman of the Public Advisory Committee on Truth in Lending Regulations of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

In 1967, Holton became dean of the School of Business Administration at UC Berkeley. He fostered stronger relationships with business practice and leaders, and served on numerous advisory boards of business organization.

"The impact Dick had on our school has been lasting and fundamental," said Professor Richard Lyons, acting dean of the Haas School. "This includes our distinctive capabilities in areas like entrepreneurship, international and part-time MBA education. We would be much less well positioned if not for the enormous contributions from Dick's leadership."

As dean, Holton also initiated a system of student ratings of all courses at the Haas School, a practice still used today to gauge teaching effectiveness and improve courses over time.

In 1970, Holton started a course in entrepreneurship and business development, one of the first such courses at any business school, enlisting a widely-experienced entrepreneur and Haas School alumnus, Leo Helzel, to co-teach the course. This association led to new support for research and teaching in entrepreneurship and the formation, with contributions from Williams-Sonoma founder Howard Lester, of the Haas School's Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

"Dick Holton had a great feel for what new directions the field of management education needed and what would engage students in the most productive careers," said Helzel.

Earl Cheit, dean emeritus of the Haas School, noted Holton's contributions developing the school's first curriculum for international business studies, which has become a key element of the school's program. He added that Holton's work with the program in entrepreneurship and innovation has generated the school's immensely popular annual business plan competitions.
"His death is a big loss," said Cheit.

To reach another important clientele, the San Francisco MBA Program was established in 1972 to serve highly qualified candidates who could not put their careers on hold by enrolling in a full-time MBA program.

Today's Berkeley Evening & Weekend MBA Program enrolls more students than does the full-time MBA program, accommodating a steadily growing demand for a highly respected business education on a part-time schedule.

In 1981, Holton expanded on a long-time interest in international business when he became dean of visiting faculty of the newly established National Center for Industrial Science and Technology Management Development, which was part of the Dalian Institute of Technology in the People's Republic of China. Holton and his wife commuted between Berkeley and Dalian for the following five years, while he continued his regular faculty duties at UC Berkeley.

Between 1980 and 1992, Holton wrote a number of articles on the emergence of a modern, market-based economy in China, writing about international joint ventures and their financing, China's state planning as compared to market-driven behavior, economic reform of the distribution sector of China, and China's prospects as an industrialized country. He also co-edited a book, "United States-China Relations" (1989).

Holton traveled extensively in China and led California Alumni Association-sponsored Bear Trek trips there.

Holton was awarded the Berkeley Citation, the campus's highest honor, in 1991, the year he retired. Even in retirement, he taught a freshman seminar, "The Economic Development of Modern China," for the past three years until spring, when his health began to fail.

Holton's love for the campus community was expressed in his enthusiasm for Bears football, his participation in a campus photography club, and his membership in the all-male Monks Chorus at the Faculty Club. This group of faculty, alumni and others with campus ties, clad as Franciscan monks, have over a century of history at UC Berkeley. Holton, who joined the Monks in the early '60s, sang bass and was described by Monks director Milton Williams as "a very strong part of this organization and always could be depended upon for sound advice when it was needed."

Fred Balderston, an emeritus UC Berkeley professor at the Haas School and Holton's colleague for more than 40 years, said "there could not be a stronger and more discerning student of human affairs, instigator and critic of ideas, and steadfast friend."

Ed Halback, dean of UC Berkeley's School of Law (Boalt Hall) approximately when Holton was dean of the Haas School, said Holton had "a good sense of humor, and when there was a problem, he always had ideas about it that were constructive and useful." He described Holton as "a spirited, lively personality."

Holton was a generous philanthropist and devoted member of public interest organizations. Within a year of moving to Berkeley, he joined the board of directors of the Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley, and his board membership with Alta Bates Hospital spanned nearly four decades. He was to
be named a 2006 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Alta Bates Summit Foundation.

Stephen Lundin of the foundation said, "He was a tireless worker, and his people skills and business savvy were key ingredients to his success as a volunteer on the board."

Holton also served on the board of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and The World Affairs Council of Northern California, and was on the board of trustees at Mills College.

Holton kept taped to his desk lamp at home a quote from Thomas Carlyle, reflecting Holton's belief in his calling as an educator: "There is nothing more fearsome than ignorance in action."

When asked what part of university service Holton considered most important, his wife, Constance, said it was teaching. Of the calling he took the most pride in, she said: "What he was most proud of were his children."

His son, Tim, said that he and his siblings benefited from their father's enormous generosity and support for all their endeavors, providing all he could while asking for little in return. "We learned to value and emulate as best we could our parents' model of responsibility, public service and citizenship," he said. "Our parents created a family life rich in travels, adventures, a vast and varied circle of friends, and a home full of fellowship, music, laughter and love."

Holton maintained a great zest for life despite struggles with his health. He and his family shared a long-time commitment to the Point Reyes peninsula and the village of Inverness, Calif. As his health failed, he was surrounded by his wife and children. He died peacefully at home in Berkeley.

He is survived by Constance, his wife of nearly 60 years; brother, David of Washington, D.C.; daughters, Melissa Holton of Moss Landing and Inverness and Jane Kriss of Inverness; son, Tim of Berkeley; and three grandchildren.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Doctors without Borders at http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/donate/.

A campus memorial is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Faculty Club at UC Berkeley.