UC Berkeley News


New endowed chair is named to honor longtime campus supporter Robert Haas
Funding for Robert D. Haas Chancellor's Chair in Equity and Inclusion comes from Levi Strauss & Co., supported by the recent Hewlett Challenge grant

| 20 February 2008

A new faculty chair dedicated to leading-edge research and teaching on equity and inclusion in society was announced on Feb. 19 by campus officials. The chair, which will form part of the campuswide initiative for equity and inclusion launched by Chancellor Birgeneau, is considered unprecedented in the UC system because it will launch research and teaching across the campus on these issues.

The Robert D. Haas Chancellor's Chair in Equity and Inclusion is being established in large part through a gift from the Levi Strauss Foundation. It honors Haas, a Berkeley alumnus who recently stepped down as chief executive officer and chairman of San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co., where he built on the company's tradition of progressive workplace practices.

"Bob Haas has been an extremely valuable adviser to me, especially in the areas of equity and inclusion, and it is most appropriate that he be honored in this way," says Birgeneau. "This chair will bring to the campus a world-class scholar who can work in partnership with Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion Gibor Basri to ensure that equity and inclusion are defining and enduring elements of Berkeley's institutional fabric. The Haas chairholder will carry out teaching and research in equity and inclusion that will impact California, the nation, and the world."

In addition to research and teaching, the new chair will aim to generate specific policy prescriptions in California and nationwide for business, government, and communities that will draw on the strengths of diverse demographics and reduce ethnic and racial disparities in areas including education, the workplace, and health.

Leaders in government and business see diversity and equity as key factors in the health of California and the nation. The new chair will complement the campus-wide Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, which Birgeneau established in 2005. The effort currently focuses on three critical areas involving research collaboration among campus experts from a broad range of disciplines: diversity and democracy, educational policy, and diversity and health disparities.

The campus last year appointed Basri, a Berkeley professor of astronomy, as its first-ever vice chancellor for equity and inclusion. His charge is to oversee the campus's numerous efforts to recruit, retain, promote - and provide a welcoming environment for - a broad diversity of faculty, students, and staff.

"This new chair will be vital to helping the Berkeley campus act effectively in its mission as a resource for all the people of California and our increasingly diverse nation," says Basri. "Through the Berkeley Diversity Research Initiative, for example, we have explicitly valued precisely the sort of multidisciplinary, socially conscious work the chairholder is likely to embody, and which Robert Haas holds in high esteem."

The new chair is the first in a select group of multidisciplinary chairs to be established at Berkeley by the chancellor, and the first to be officially named a chancellor's chair. A chancellor's chair is bestowed upon tenured faculty who have made extraordinary contributions in their fields. Since it is funded at the highest endowment level, the chancellor's chair can be an important tool for recruiting world-class scholars to Berkeley.

Hewlett adds to gift total

In addition to $3.5 million from the Levi Strauss Foundation to establish the chair, $1.5 million is being provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, bringing the total for the new chair to $5 million. The Hewlett Foundation's contribution is part of a $113 million challenge grant announced last September to provide Berkeley with a major new source of endowment funds to attract and support top faculty and graduate students and to allow the campus to compete with the nation's best private schools. The challenge grant will match other private donations to Berkeley for 100 faculty chairs, and the ultimate result will be a minimum of $220 million in new endowment funds for the campus.

During his tenure as CEO and chairman at Levi Strauss & Co., Haas demonstrated his commitment to corporate citizenship through progressive workplace practices, generous philanthropy, and numerous initiatives designed to drive positive social change. Under his leadership, Levi Strauss became the first company in the United States to enforce labor and environmental-protection standards with its contractors overseas, and the first to offer health-care benefits to the unmarried partners of its employees.

Haas earned his undergraduate degree from Berkeley in 1964 as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]