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Albert Bowker was UC Berkeley's fifth chancellor, serving in the post from 1971-1980. (Eliot Khuner photo) Albert Bowker

Albert Bowker, innovative UC Berkeley chancellor during 1970s, dies at age 88

– Albert Hosmer Bowker, a former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, an expert in statistics and an innovative administrator during his decades-long career in higher education across the country, died Sunday in a retirement home in Portola Valley, Calif. He was 88 and had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Albert H. Bowker
Albert Bowker on bridge

The Bowker years: A slide show Slide show

Oral history: A series of interviews with Albert Bowker, conducted in 1991 by Harriet Nathan of the Regional Oral History Office. Bowker was Berkeley's fifth chancellor, not including Martin E. Myerson, who served as acting chancellor in 1965.

Bowker was chancellor of UC Berkeley, which he called a "wild and wonderful place," from 1971 to 1980, a period largely defined by steady reductions in state funding, lingering student sentiment against the Vietnam War, and demonstrations against the university system's investments in apartheid South Africa.

As UC Berkeley's fifth chancellor, Bowker actively courted alumni support to compensate for losses in state financial support and, as a result, campus fundraising increased dramatically. Bowker established the Berkeley Foundation, which raised the money needed to construct Bechtel Engineering Center and the Minor Hall Addition for the School of Optometry.

Bowker also helped create new programs in health sciences and energy studies at UC Berkeley, as well as a small group advising program for new students. Also during his tenure, women's intercollegiate athletics became a separate department with administrative standing parallel to that of the men's intercollegiate program.

He was honored with the Berkeley Citation, one of UC Berkeley's highest honors, in 1980.

"Al Bowker was an outstanding chancellor who paved the way for UC Berkeley into the modern era," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau. "For 28 years after stepping down as chancellor, he remained an integral part of the Cal community, offering advice for the chancellors who came after him."

Bowker was born in Winchendon, Mass., in 1919. He earned his B.S. in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1941 and a Ph.D. in statistics at Columbia University in 1949.

He began his professional career in 1941 as a research assistant in MIT's Department of Mathematics, then took a post as an associate mathematical statistician at Columbia from 1943 to 1945. He became an assistant professor of math and statistics at Stanford University in 1947 and was chair of its statistics department from 1948 to 1959.

He was chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY) from 1963 to 1971.

Bowker's role in higher education continued after he left UC Berkeley. In the Carter administration, he accepted a position as assistant secretary for postsecondary education for the newly-formed U.S. Department of Education. He served there from 1980 to 1981, then went on to become dean of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland from 1981 to 1984.

He was executive vice president of the University of Maryland from 1984 to 1986. He returned to CUNY as vice president for planning at its research foundation from 1986-1993.

Although he was in a retirement home at the time of his death, Bowker maintained his primary residence at University Terrace, a condominium community in Berkeley for university faculty and staff.

He is survived by his son, Paul Albert Bowker of Cottonwood, Calif.; twin daughters, Caroline Anne Bowker and Nancy Kathleen Bowker, both of Palo Alto; and five grandchildren. He was married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Rempfer. In 1964, he married his second wife, Rosedith Sitgreaves, a professor of education and statistics at Stanford.

A memorial service is pending and will be held at the Faculty Club, a place that Al Bowker regarded as his second home and where he frequently met friends old and new for lunch.

"I was always delighted to see him at the Faculty Club, entertaining colleagues and participating in campus life," said Birgeneau. "He will be greatly missed."

A full obituary will be available on the UC Berkeley NewsCenter on Tuesday, Jan. 22.