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Berdahl announcement/
Campus reaction

"The man's accomplishments will really be evident in the historical record. He's a personable, big-hearted guy; he has terrific communication skills, and really knows how to speak to people. We've faced some serious crises during the time he's been in that position, and he's always found a way to give the proper response — consulting with all of the folks who need to be informed at the appropriate times, and making the right decisions in a timely way."

Ron Gronsky
Academic Senate chair

"Chancellor Berdahl has worked to improve relationships with all members of our community. His personal dedication to the campus, work ethic, and appreciation for CSAC's unique role and diverse staff perspectives to enhance our campus will be greatly missed. We wish him all the best. "

Anne Aaboe
Chancellor's Staff Advisory Committee chair

"Bob Berdahl has paid particularly close attention to administrative matters and management issues. He has a quiet leadership style that allows individuals to express what they think, to act in many cases with a fair degree of independence. He's worked hard to build a sense of teamwork among his senior leadership, and that's something he probably doesn't get enough credit for. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him when I was [Academic] Senate chair. We didn't always agree, and that was fine — we were always able to talk about the issues that were difficult. I appreciated his candor and confidence."

Catherine Koshland
Vice provost-designate for academic
planning & facilities

"We were not surprised to see that restoration of the library was one of the things he was most proud of. His interest in the library dates to his earliest days on campus. He was an early friend and a true friend, and I'm fairly confident that we'll continue to see him, because this is where he works when he's not being chancellor!"

Thomas Leonard
University librarian

Press Release
Chancellor Berdahl addressing Commencement 2003 Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, addressing graduates in 2003, will step down from the helm of UC Berkeley in June 2004. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

UC Berkeley chancellor announces he'll step down in June 2004

More on Chancellor Berdahl
•  ‘We need to keep going full speed ahead’: A conversation with the chancellor
The Berdahl years: A look at the chancellor's accomplishments and challenges  Flash slide show
• A timeline of campus events under Chancellor Berdahl
• In the beginning: Up close and personal with then-new Chancellor Berdahl (Berkeley Magazine 1997)
• Chancellor's website

– Robert M. Berdahl today (Thursday, Sept. 25) announced his intention to step down as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, in June 2004. During his tenure, he oversaw an unprecedented rebuilding of the campus, returned the university's library to national preeminence, reorganized campus leadership to improve undergraduate education and raised private giving to the highest level in UC Berkeley's history.

When he leaves, Berdahl, 66, will have served seven years as head of the nation's top-ranked public university. His appointment as Berkeley chancellor in March 1997 capped an academic career devoted to leadership in public universities, including four and a half years as president of the University of Texas at Austin.

'I believe we have accomplished a great deal and that we have taken the steps necessary to ensure that this campus is fully prepared to continue its great tradition of excellence well into the future'
-Chancellor Robert Berdahl

"It has been the greatest privilege and honor of my life to serve as chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley," said Berdahl. "In my time as chancellor, I have been fortunate to serve with some outstanding individuals. I believe we have accomplished a great deal and that we have taken the steps necessary to ensure that this campus is fully prepared to continue its great tradition of excellence well into the future."

Strategic plans for both academic and capital development at UC Berkeley have been adopted in recent years. They guide the hiring of additional faculty and student growth, identify critical areas of new inquiry and research, and plan for needed facilities.

"The greatness of Berkeley lies in the fact that, given sufficient resources and adequate facilities, our faculty can recruit the best scientists and scholars in the world," said Berdahl.

 Chancellor Berdahl lecturing on Berkeley history
Even as the top campus administrator, Chancellor Berdahl never lost his love for teaching, as he shows here in a lecture on Berkeley history for students in the College of Letters & Science. (Genevieve Shiffrar photo)

"When I leave in June, I will have completed 18 years in very rewarding, but very demanding positions. It is time for me to return to my academic roots and to the pleasures of teaching and scholarship," he said. Berdahl, an historian, said he would take a year's leave and then will return to campus to teach and continue scholarly work.

"Bob Berdahl has been an eloquent and outstanding leader for the Berkeley campus and will be greatly missed," said Richard C. Atkinson, president of the University of California.

"Taking the oldest campus and rebuilding a substantial portion of it for future generations is a monumental accomplishment. His commitment of substantial resources to undergraduate education and his unprecedented record of fund-raising will bear fruit for many years to come. I know that I speak also for President-Designate Dynes in thanking Bob Berdahl for his exemplary service both to the University of California and to American higher education," said Atkinson.

Under Berdahl's leadership, the campus retrofitted and refurbished buildings, classrooms and laboratories in every corner of campus and across all disciplines, including the arts, humanities and sciences, and those of the professional schools.

Construction is underway to increase the stock of student housing by 20 percent, and the campus is now in the early stages of constructing the largest research building on the Berkeley campus - the $162.3 million Stanley Biosciences and Bioengineering Facility.

"I have believed since my first days on the campus that the most pressing need Berkeley faced was to restore the facilities necessary to attract and retain the best faculty and students. And we've made great progress, but still more remains to be done," said Berdahl.

Among the achievements under Berdahl's tenure thus far are:

  • An unprecedented rebuilding and seismic renovation of the core campus. Since 1997, projects totaling more than $479 million were completed and others estimated at nearly $400 million are underway. Among the renovated buildings are Barrows, Barker, Hildeband, Wurster, Hearst Memorial Mining, Doe Library, Goldman School of Public Policy, Silver Space Sciences Laboratory, Berkeley Art Museum and Haas Pavilion. New construction includes the Hargrove Music Library, Stanley Biosciences and Bioengineering Facility and student housing.
  • A return by UC Berkeley's library in 2001 to the top rank among public research universities as determined by the Association of Research Libraries.
  • The launching of three major research initiatives -the Health Sciences Initiative, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3). CITRIS and QB3 are two of the four new California Institutes for Science and Innovation.
  • The greatest growth in private philanthropy in the history of the university. From 1998 through June 2003, the campus raised more than $1.3 billion.
  • An all-time high in graduation rates (82 percent of undergraduates now graduate within six years) and a record low in the average time to degree (4.31 years for freshmen who entered UC Berkeley in fall 1996).
  • Completion of the campus's Strategic Academic Plan and New Century Plan for facilities. They form the foundation for the Long Range Development Plan that runs through 2020.

On campus, Berdahl is known for his personal warmth and eloquence and a determination to uphold academic freedom while underscoring the responsibility that accompanies it.

Securing such a balance became one of the major challenges of Berdahl's tenure. Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he kept the campus open to provide a place of comfort and focus for students, faculty and staff shaken by the events of that day.

At a moving campus memorial later that week, Berdahl addressed the 12,000 people gathered on Memorial Glade about the role and obligation of an academic community. "As a university," he said, " we are a community committed to seeking truth. Seeking truth, speaking truth, as we are given to see it, is often difficult, but never more than in times like these, for we know that in war, truth is often the first casualty. But our obligation, as an academic community, is to preserve this University as a place where seekers of truth are safe from the winds of popular opinion and political rhetoric that swirl around it. Our responsibility is to provide a safe haven for all who come here to learn."

He also sought to instill a sense of community on campus with the belief that a university is "a human place." This fall, he welcomed all new freshmen and transfer students at receptions in the garden of his university residence. Berdahl instituted as well a yearly campuswide memorial service honoring all faculty, staff and students who died during the preceding year. He and his wife, Peg Berdahl, annually honored those involved in university-community partnerships, and they personally oversaw the establishment of a campus day care center for infants.

After coming to UC Berkeley, Berdahl continued to be a leading voice in national issues facing higher education and as a leader in support of affirmative action in college admissions. He served as chair of the Association of American Universities in 2001-02.

In a major speech at the National Press Club in 1999, addressing issues that would face universities in the 21st century, he said: "We must assure that public universities continue to fulfill their public trust, as weavers of the social fabric, educating individuals for citizenship and leadership, comprehending the ethical dimensions of human life."

Berdahl's roots are Midwestern - he was born in Sioux Falls, S.D., received his B.A. from Augustana College, in Sioux Falls, and his M.A. from the University of Illinois. His Ph.D. is from the University of Minnesota, which also awarded him an honorary doctorate of science.

Before assuming the presidency at UT Austin in 1993, Berdahl served as vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1986 to 1993. And from 1967 to 1986, he was a member of the history faculty at the University of Oregon, where he was also dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1981 to 1986.

Berdahl was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000. He also received a Fulbright Research Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Study and Research Fellowship and served as a Research Associate at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and at the Max-Planck Institute for History in Göttingen, Germany.

A nationwide search for a new UC Berkeley chancellor will be initiated in the next few weeks, and a panel of regents, faculty, students, alumni, foundation and staff representatives will be named to serve as members of the advisory committee. UC President-designate Robert C. Dynes will chair the search, which is expected to take approximately six months.

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