Retiring UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Karl Pister awarded UC Berkeley's highest honor, the Berkeley Medal

by Robert Sanders

Berkeley -- Outgoing UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Karl S. Pister, a professor and former dean of the College of Engineering at UC Berkeley, received the campus's highest honor, the Berkeley Medal, during graduation ceremonies Saturday, May 18.

Pister, who retires June 30 after five years as chancellor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was a UC Berkeley faculty member for 44 years, and served as engineering dean from 1980 until 1990.

In awarding the medal to Pister, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ praised his "remarkable career in service to engineering, education and generations of young scholars."

"He helped build Berkeley's top-flight reputation in structural mechanics and earthquake engineering and was a founding father of the field of computational mechanics," Christ said. As dean "he brought the college through diminishing state budgets, boosted ties with industry and alumni, championed programs for minority students that became national models, and safeguarded and enhanced Berkeley's engineering excellence."

The Berkeley Medal, awarded for superior achievements in the public interest, is reserved primarily for heads of state. Past recipients include Philippine President Corazon Aquino, German President Helmut Kohl and the Dalai Lama.

While at Santa Cruz, Pister was noted for his vigorous support of excellence in teaching, research and public service, the initiation of numerous projects in partnership with other segments of education, and significant leadership in the Fort Ord base conversion project to a campus of the California State University system and home of the Monterey Bay Education, Science and Technology Center.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Pister is well known for his research in the mechanics of solids and structures, earthquake engineering and computer-aided design of dynamic structures. He also is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Mechanics and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Pister, 70, was first named UCSC chancellor for an interim two-year appointment in 1991, but in March 1992 the UC Board of Regents approved the president's recommendations for a regular appointment.

Born in Stockton, Calif., Pister graduated from UC Berkeley in 1945 with a BS in civil engineering (with honors), and went on to earn an MS in civil engineering from Berkeley in 1948. In 1952, after receiving his PhD in theoretical and applied mechanics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, he moved back to join the civil engineering faculty at UC Berkeley.

Pister has been a Fulbright Scholar twice and received the Watson Medal from the American Concrete Institute in 1960. He has served as chair of the Academic Council of UC's Academic Senate and as faculty representative to the UC Board of Regents. In 1985 he was the first holder of the Roy W. Carlson Chair in Engineering.

Pister will be joined in retirement by his wife Rita Olsen Pister. They are the parents of six children and grandparents of six. .

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