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Mike Koll, California Alumni Association leader and summer camp founder, dies at age 86

Mike Koll
Mike Koll

– Michael J. "Mike" Koll, former executive director of the California Alumni Association, died in Berkeley July 1 after a long illness. Koll, who graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1941, began his alumni association career in 1949 as founding director of the Lair of the Golden Bear summer camp in the Stanislaus National Forest, one of the most successful and imitated of the nation's family camps.

Koll was born in 1916 on a farm in Amery, WI. After high school he traveled to Crescent City, CA, to play semi-pro baseball where his skill attracted the notice of several Cal alumni. In the spring of 1938 he came to UC Berkeley as a freshman and began a lifelong association with the University of California.

Koll's baseball career at Berkeley earned him induction into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame. He is the only Cal pitcher to win a batting title, and he was proud that he never lost to Stanford University in four years, beating the cross-bay rival 10 times.

Upon graduation with honors in forestry, Koll served in the Navy during WW II. His tour of duty in the Pacific included combat missions and a stint in Hawaii managing the naval baseball teams that included many of the famous pro players serving in the military at that time.

Returning to Berkeley in 1949, Koll joined the staff of the California Alumni Association to develop a family summer camp. During his 40-year career with the alumni association, Koll worked in nearly every capacity. He served as executive director of the 90,000-member group from 1984 until his retirement in 1988.

In retirement he continued his service to the university, assisting with campus fund raising and remaining a guiding influence at the Lair of the Golden Bear. Koll also served as president of the Berkeley chapter of the Rotary Club.

"I met Mike and Jane Koll over 40 years ago as a young staffer working for the alumni association," said David P. Gardner, former president of the University of California. "Mike was the veteran, and I learned much about Cal and the association's work from him. Generations of Cal alumni and their families will be enduringly in Mike's debt for starting and managing the Cal alumni camp in the high Sierra."

Immediate past president of the CAA, Mark Ornellas, who worked at the alumni family camp under Koll in the 1970s, said, "Mike Koll loved Cal and was involved with his alma mater for more than 60 years. The Cal community has lost one of its most devoted and cherished friends. His imprint on CAA and on me personally will endure."

Koll is survived by Jane Biedenbach Koll, his wife of 52 years; their children Lynne Koll Martin and Loretta Koll; grandchildren Tevis, Cali and Jerrott; and son-in-laws Tevis P. Martin and Jon Van Heuit.

The family prefers memorial contributions to the Michael J. Koll Scholarship or to the Lair of the Golden Bear Fund at the California Alumni Association, Alumni House, Berkeley, Ca. 94720. A reception to honor Mike Koll's life will be held at the Alumni House later this summer.