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Laird Receives Berkeley Citation

Admission Director's Retirement Ends 22-Year UC Career

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
Posted November 10, 1999

Bob Laird

Maximino Martinez, Incentive Awards Program outreach coordinator, greets Bob Laird and his son Casey in a wedding dress Laird once donned for a Bay to Breakers Marathon.

In a farewell fête that included a Berkeley Citation, municipal proclamation and fashion show, the campus said a collective good-bye Nov. 5, to Bob Laird, director of Undergraduate Admission and Relations with Schools.

With his retirement next week, Laird ends a 22-year career in recruitment and admissions at Berkeley, which began in 1977, at the Office of Relations with Schools. Over the years, he traveled annually to communities throughout the state, where he became known to school personnel, students and parents for his spontaneous wit and candid answers to hard questions. Because of his outspoken commitment to disadvantaged students, many considered him the conscience of the UC system.

Laird's six-year tenure as director of Undergraduate Admission and Relations with Schools included the end of state affirmative action programs in admissions and hiring at UC, first by action of the Board of Regents and then by California voters through Proposition 209.

At Friday's retirement event, Laird received the Berkeley Citation, one of the highest campus honors.

In presenting the citation, Vice Chancellor Genaro Padilla said that Laird --

who articulated opposition to 209 and helped craft a new, more sophisticated, admission process -- "carried us through a crisis that might have been truly shattering." He called Laird's thoughtful analyses "flawless" and his commitment to a fair, well informed process "impeccable and precise."

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean read a proclamation declaring Nov. 5, Robert Laird II Day in the city of Berkeley.

Later, a coterie of male co-workers modeled a wardrobe of gowns, habits and bridal attire exhumed from storage. Known for pranks as much as moral leadership and careful analysis, Laird donned costumes in the annual San Francisco Bay to Breakers marathon for more than a decade, and one year took first prize -- for style, not speed.

Those offering tributes included Lynn Baranco, who recalled interviewing Laird for an admissions outreach position in 1977. "Sell me something," Baranco fired at the candidate, hoping to test his ability to think on his feet. "Bob sold me the School of Engineering," said Baranco.

Another speaker, Lowell High School Counselor Joan Catelli, said "students would cut classes" to listen to Laird's talks, "dazzled by the information but especially by the jokes." Her school, she said, is "currently in need of a part-time male counselor. We will take someone in drag."

RELATED STORY: An Interview With Bob Laird



November 10 - 16, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 14)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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