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UC Berkeley Web Feature

Peter E. Haas, Sr., a legendary supporter and cherished friend of the university, passes away

The following statement was issued by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau on the passing of his dear and trusted friend:

The University of California, Berkeley, community mourns the loss of Peter E. Haas, Sr. of the Class of 1940, one of the most cherished members of the Cal family, who passed away in San Francisco on Saturday, December 3, at the age of 86.

 Peter Haas
Peter E. Haas, Sr.

Peter and his family's love of UC Berkeley are legendary. Family patriarch Levi Strauss was one of the earliest philanthropists in the university's history, contributing the first scholarships in 1897. Each succeeding generation of the family has been enormously supportive of Cal, but none more generous in spirit and in practice than Peter.

A 1940 Berkeley graduate with a degree in economics, Peter carried on his family's long and distinguished association with the university, serving as a trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation and chair of the Chancellor's Campaign Cabinet for the Campaign for the New Century, an endeavor that raised $1.44 billion for the campus in the 1990s. Peter Haas and his wife, Mimi, donated the cornerstone gift to launch that effort. The Haas family had previously contributed the lead gift for the construction of a new business school in honor of Walter A. Haas, Sr., Peter's father.

Although he remained a towering public presence long after his retirement as chairman of Levi Strauss Company, Peter Haas was distinguished by his modesty and his profound concern for those less fortunate than he. He preferred creating awards to recognize public service and charitable achievement rather than receiving them. The Haas family, including Peter, created the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award in 1964. The Haas International Award honors alumni of UC Berkeley who have distinguished records of service to their native country.

In 1996, Peter received the two highest forms of recognition that the campus can bestow: the Berkeley Medal and the California Alumni Association's Alumnus of the Year Award.

On philanthropy:

"If we had money…it was really not ours alone. It was our obligation to use it wisely to help others."
– Peter E. Haas, Sr.

His wife, Mimi, honored him on his 80th birthday by establishing the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award, a program that every year honors Cal alumni who have made significant contributions to improving society, particularly at the community level.

When asked why his family was so generous, Peter once said: "If we had money…it was really not ours alone. It was our obligation to use it wisely to help others."

An avid Cal fan, Peter never missed a football or basketball game including the recent Big Game. He has continued as an active trustee of UC Berkeley Foundation.

Peter was a gracious and forceful leader. He set an example that many others felt inspired to follow. Alumni knew that when they received a call or a visit from Peter Haas, they would soon be convinced to do more than they had ever expected to do for Cal.

I join every UC Berkeley chancellor who had the privilege to know Peter Haas in saying that we have lost one of Cal's greatest alumni leaders and a dear and trusted friend. I do not exaggerate when I say that Peter Haas was one of the most wonderful human beings I have met since I came to Cal. His genuine humility, his pervasive concern for others, and his determination to improve the world were central to who he was. We are diminished and profoundly saddened by his passing.

The flags at UC Berkeley will be flown at half-mast in his honor.

A public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, December 6 at the Congregation Emanu-El at 2 Lake Street in San Francisco. A reception for family and friends will be held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, December 6.

The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Athletic Study Center at UC Berkeley. Donations may be made online at givetocal.berkeley.edu - or checks may be made payable to the UC Berkeley Foundation and sent to University Relations, 2080 Addison Street, Berkeley, California 94720-4200.