NEWS RELEASE, 10/22/98
Noted tree expert and UC Berkeley professor of forestry Robert Cockrell is dead at the age of 89
By Jacquie Frost, Public Affairs
BERKELEY -- Robert A. Cockrell, a noted expert on trees and wood who also is credited with foresting part of the University of California, Berkeley, campus, died Oct. 10 at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael. He was 89.
A professor emeritus of forestry, he joined the UC Berkeley faculty in 1936 to teach courses in forest utilization, wood anatomy and dendrology - the study of trees.
He also planted hundreds of trees throughout the campus, many of them from seeds given to him by former students and colleagues at Clemson University in South Carolina and Syracuse University, where he taught before coming to UC Berkeley.
The first, a red cedar planted at West Circle shortly after he arrived, still stands.
In 1976, Cockrell published a revised edition of "Trees of the Berkeley Campus," described as one of UC Berkeley's most popular publications. The booklet gave Latin and common names, as well as descriptions, for hundreds of unusual shrubs and trees on the campus.
His scholarly research in the mechanical properties of second growth giant sequoia revived an interest in the species which led to its planting in many parts of the southern Sierra Nevada.
Cockrell helped to develop the graduate program in forestry at UC Berkeley and served for many years as the graduate advisor for the School of Forestry (now part of the College of Natural Resources).
He also was credited with laying the "intellectual and administrative foundations for the Forest Products Laboratory and worked at many levels to secure the lab," said Joe McBride, a professor in UC
Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
Cockrell served on a number of committees of the UC Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate, as well as serving as that body's secretary for 10 years. He was also associate dean of the graduate division at UC Berkeley from 1954 until 1967.
He was known to have a fine singing voice and was a member of the Monk's Chorus at the Faculty Club.
"His leading of 'Good King Wencelas' at the traditional Mulford Hall Christmas sing will be long remembered," said McBride.
Born August 11, 1909, in Yonkers, New York, Cockrell received his BS (1930) and MS (1931) from the New York State College of Forestry in Syracuse and his PhD in wood anatomy from the Universtiy of Michigan (1934). After a brief stint on the Clemson College forestry staff, he accepted an appointment at UC Berkeley in 1936.
After serving during World War II for three years as a wood technologist at the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Wisconsin, he pushed for a similar laboratory at UC Berkeley, where one was completed in 1954.
Cockrell served in numerous administrative roles on campus before retiring in 1977.
He is survived by his wife Zylpha of San Rafael, and three sons, Findlay, Jeffrey and Seth Cockrell.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Nov. 8, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Great Hall of the Faculty Club on the UC Berkeley campus.
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