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UC Berkeley Press Release

Dow Votaw, social responsibility authority, dies at 83

– Dow Votaw, a former dean and professor emeritus of the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business who was known for his groundbreaking work on corporations and social responsibility, died Monday (March 29) at the age of 83.

Votaw died at his home in La Selva Beach, Calif., south of Santa Cruz. The cause of his death was heart failure.

Dow Votaw
Dow Votaw (UC Berkeley photo)
With Earl F. Cheit, also a former dean of the Haas School, Votaw began teaching in 1959 a course on the political, legal and social environment of business. It was the same year such studies first appeared. Their work laid the foundation for the emergence of the Business and Public Policy Group at the school, and the field itself.

Votaw wrote in a 1973 issue of California Management Review that business leaders who fail to exercise real social responsibility may eventually lose their leadership roles in society and see their own organizations collapse.

"If the leaders of business continue to conceive of social responsibility as a mere euphemism for charity, a surrogate for the corporate image, a concern only for the public relations department, or simply a passing fad, they will fail to meet what may be one of mankind's greatest challenges," he wrote.

He was the author, co-author or editor of five highly regarded books about business and public policy: "Modern Corporations" (1964); "The Six-Legged Dog, Mattei and ENI: A Study in Power" (1964); "Legal Aspects of Business Administration" (1969), a widely used text; and "The Corporate Dilemma" (1978). "The Six-Legged Dog" examined Enrico Mattei and his giant Italian petroleum monopoly.

"I often thought it was appropriate that his research and writing focused on issues of governance," said Raymond Miles, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus and former dean who worked with Votaw at the Haas School from 1963 until Votaw's retirement in 1985. "He was senatorial in appearance, judicious in his thoughts and actions, and a consensus-building academic executive."

"Dow wrote authoritatively in the fields of the corporation and anti-trust law," recalled Cheit. "His skill in academic administration and the quality of his scholarship were widely recognized. He was a colleague whose dedication, whose warmth and whose wit will be missed by everyone who knew him."

Votaw grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., and graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in political science and economics in 1941 from Colorado College and with an MBA with distinction from Harvard University in 1943. Votaw earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1948. He was a member of the State Bar of California and the American Bar Association.

Commissioned as an ensign in the Naval Reserve for two years during his graduate education, Votaw served as a lieutenant and communications officer in World War II combat areas in the Pacific from 1943-1946.

Votaw was appointed to UC Berkeley's business school as an instructor in 1948, and became full professor in 1959. He served as associate dean for nine years, acting dean for two years and chair of the school's Business and Public Policy Group from 1972-1980.

In the late '60s, the Academic Senate appointed Votaw chair of the Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental Relations.

Votaw guided doctoral research and was a popular professor, earning in 1982 the Earl F. Cheit Outstanding Teacher Award through a, vote by students.

Jennifer Chatman, the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management at the Haas School and director of its Ph.D. program, recalled taking a course taught by Votaw while a student at UC Berkeley.

"I remember it as a great class - it opened my eyes about corporate governance, socially responsible business and the complexities of bailing out corporations," she said, noting that the bailout of Chrysler was big news at the time.

When Votaw retired in 1985, he was awarded the Berkeley Citation, one of the campus's highest honors.

He and his wife Marian then moved to a former weekend home in a wooded canyon near La Selva Beach, said their daughter, Tory Beale. Marian Votaw died in January 2003.

Beale said her father loved international travel and spent several sabbaticals living with his family in Italy. Another passion, she said, was mountaineering. He went trekking in the Himalayas many times and also loved hiking in the Sierra, Beale said. His third big love, she said, was dogs; especially his Golden Retriever named Ralph.

His daughter Tory and son-in-law Richard Beale of La Selva Beach, and two grandchildren, Scott and Greg Beale, also of La Selva Beach, survive him. Funeral services were private. Contributions can be made in Votaw's memory to Amnesty International or The Nature Conservancy.

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