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Former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl named president of Association of American Universities

 Robert Berdahl
Robert Berdahl (Peg Skorpinski photo)

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– The Association of American Universities (AAU), an association of 62 leading public and private research universities, announced today the appointment of Robert M. Berdahl, former chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley and former president of the University of Texas at Austin, as its new president.

Martin Jischke, AAU's current chair and president of Purdue University, said that Berdahl "has a long and distinguished academic career as both a scholar and an administrator at AAU universities. Moreover, he shares AAU's mission to strengthen the nation's research university system and educate a new generation of scientists, engineers and scholars."

Berdahl will take his new position in the spring, upon completion of a teaching commitment at Berkeley. He will succeed Nils Hasselmo, who announced his retirement in September. Hasselmo has been president of AAU since 1998. AAU Executive Vice President John Vaughn will assume presidential responsibilities as necessary in the transition between Hasselmo and Berdahl.

More than one million undergraduates and 450,000 graduate and professional students currently attend AAU member institutions. The association's 60 U.S. universities perform nearly 60 percent of university-based research funded by the federal government and award more than one-half of U.S. doctoral degrees.

"The partnership between the federal government and our nation's research universities that has resulted in such extraordinary advances in knowledge is threatened by stagnant federal investment in research and intensifying competition from abroad," said Berdahl. "This partnership has been essential to national security and economic growth for more than half a century. I look forward to directing AAU's efforts to reaffirm and strengthen this partnership."

Berdahl added, "Our country's global leadership depends on our capacity to innovate – to stay on the cutting edge of science and scholarship. We cannot sustain that innovative capacity unless we continue to attract exceptionally talented people from the U.S. and abroad into our university education and research programs, develop them into the next generation of leading scientists, engineers, and scholars, and give them the opportunity to conduct groundbreaking research.

"To accomplish these goals, we need to revive the nation's commitment to basic university research and to the development of new talent, particularly young American scientists and engineers."

Berdahl, 68, served as chancellor at Berkeley from 1997 to 2004, and as president at Texas from 1993 to 1997. During his tenure at Berkeley, he served one year as chair of AAU.

Prior to his position at Texas, Berdahl was Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1986 to 1993. From 1967 until 1986, he was a member of the history faculty at the University of Oregon, and he served from 1981 to 1986 as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oregon.

Berdahl received his B.A. degree from Augustana College, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, his M.A. degree from the University of Illinois, and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He is married to Margaret "Peg" Berdahl, and they have three married daughters and six grandchildren.

Statement by UC President Robert Dynes:

I commend the Association of American Universities on its selection of former University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor Bob Berdahl as president. Bob is an excellent choice, as he has both the knowledge and the experience to lead this great association of premier research institutions. The higher education community is fortunate to have a person of Bob's caliber and experience willing to serve as a key leader and spokesman for our community in Washington. He brings to AAU a deeply passionate commitment to students and higher education.

Bob has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years, and I am confident that he will serve with excellence, as when he led both the University of Texas at Austin and UC Berkeley. These are particularly important and challenging times for institutions of higher education as we advance our missions of education, research and public service for our country and the broader global community. Research universities are critical to ensuring that our nation remains on the front line of scientific and technological innovation, resulting in our continued economic prosperity.

AAU plays a critical role in advocating for research institutions on both the national and international levels. Bob is an outstanding choice to lead this organization and to deliver the message of higher education's crucial role in creating a bright future for our nation.

Statement by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau:

Bob Berdahl is an outstanding choice. He has exhibited brilliant leadership at a number of signature universities most especially his seven years as chancellor here at UC Berkeley. This experience positions Bob perfectly to head the AAU and be an effective advocate for higher education at the national level.

Additional information:

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