NOTE TO MEDIA-memo on death of Donald Terner, died in air crash which killed Ron Brown

by Gretchen Kell

Reporters covering the death of Donald Terner, the president of Bridge Housing Corp. in San Francisco who died along with U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and others in a plane crash earlier this week, may find the following information useful. Terner's memorial service is today (April 5) at 1 p.m. at Glide Memorial Church, 330 Ellis Street, San Francisco.

Donald Terner was associate professor of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley from 1976 to 1981. He was associate dean for research for the Center for Environmental Design Research, part of the UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design, from 1977 to 1978.

Richard Bender, emeritus dean and professor of architecture at UC Berkeley and a longtime friend of Terner's, said Terner was a pioneer and leader in the field of affordable housing and a "shirtsleeves architect" who helped poor people around the world learn to build their own homes.

"When he jumped on the plane to be there, in Bosnia, I wasn't surprised," said Bender. "But when he was listed as a CEO, I was surprised. I didn't think of him as a CEO. Still, although he was always ready to roll up his sleeves, he was equally at home in the boardroom."

Bender said Terner was "one of a small group of people who, beginning in the 1960s, helped to change the view of how housing for poor people was done. He helped change affordable housing from being high-tech and pre-fab to lower tech with an emphasis on self-help and the participatory method."

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Terner directed an urban homesteading assistance program in New York City called UHAB. Tenants were encouraged to buy decrepit buildings from the city with low interest loans sponsored by state bonds. They then learned, through the program, how to rehabilitate the buildings themselves, picking up a trade as they worked.

Terner also had used his skills in many countries including Africa, Vietnam and South America.

Terner left UC Berkeley to work for Gov. Jerry Brown in the state Department of Housing and Community Planning. He later became president of the newly organized Bridge Housing Corp., a non-profit housing group that has involved many UC Berkeley students and alumni.

"One of the successes of Bridge," said Bender, who is on Bridge's board of directors, "is that hardly a week goes by when people aren't copying it.

"Terner was an incredibly passionate and energetic person." he said. "He went at everything with enormous energy."

Bender said a scholarship fund in Terner's name has been set up through the World Savings Bank, a major Bridge supporter that helps people in need. For more information, call Bridge Housing Corp. at (415) 989-1111.

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