UC Berkeley

Chancellors of UC Berkeley

Nicholas B. Dirks, June 2013 - present

Robert J. BirgeneauNICHOLAS B. DIRKS became the 10th chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley on June 1, 2013. An internationally renowned historian and anthropologist, he is a leader in higher education and well-known for his commitment to and advocacy for accessible, high-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences.

Before coming to Berkeley, he was the executive vice president for the arts and sciences and dean of the faculty at Columbia University, where, in addition to his work on behalf of undergraduate programs, he improved and diversified the faculty, putting special emphasis on interdisciplinary and international initiatives. The Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History, Dirks joined Columbia in 1997 as chair of the anthropology department. Prior to his appointment at Columbia, he was a professor of history and anthropology at the University of Michigan for 10 years, before which he taught Asian history and civilization at the California Institute of Technology.


Robert J. Birgeneau, Sept. 2004 - May 2013

Robert J. BirgeneauRobert J. Birgeneau served as UC Berkeley's chancellor from Sept. 2004 through May 2013. Immediately prior, the Toronto native served as president of the University of Toronto for four years. Birgeneau received his BSc in mathematics from the University of Toronto in 1963 and his PhD in physics from Yale University in 1966. He was on the Yale faculty for one year and then spent a year at Oxford University. Birgeneau was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories from 1968 to 1975, then joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a professor of physics. In his 25 years at MIT, he served as chair of the physics department and later as dean of science; he is one of the most highly cited physicists in the world.


Robert M. Berdahl, 1997-2004

Robert M. BerdahlAs chancellor, Robert M. Berdahl (1937- ) oversaw an unprecedented rebuilding and seismic renovation of the campus, helped the University Library regain its national preeminence, and undertook significant planning for academic programs and facilities, to guide campus enrollment growth and expansion into emerging fields of scholarship and research. During Berdahl's tenure, nearly $900 million in campus retrofits and renovations were completed or launched. This included major work on Barrows, Barker, Hildebrand, and Wurster Halls, Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Doe Library, Goldman School of Public Policy, Silver Space Sciences Laboratory, Berkeley Art Museum, Haas Pavilion, Hargrove Music Library, the Stanley Biosciences and Bioengineering Facility, and student housing. Berdahl reorganized campus leadership to improve undergraduate education, and supported the creation of substantial new research efforts in the health sciences, information technology, and quantitative biomedicine. He also oversaw the greatest growth in private philanthropy in the University's history.


Chang-Lin Tien, 1990-1997

Chang-Lin TienAn outspoken voice for equal opportunity in higher education, Chang-Lin Tien (1935-2002) set the motto of "Excellence through Diversity" for Berkeley. He succeeded in preserving the campus's preeminence despite a multi-year state budget crisis and the loss of 27 percent of the faculty to early retirement incentives. He was also challenged to preserve diversity in the face of affirmative- action bans by the Regents and, soon after, by California voters. A mechanical engineer who spent most of his career at Berkeley, Tien was a national leader in higher education and a much-loved figure on campus for his energy, enthusiasm, and regard for students. The first Asian American to head a major research university, Tien embraced and extended Berkeley's ties to Pacific Rim nations, fostering new programs, academic endeavors, and financial donations to the campus. He launched Berkeley's second capital campaign — which ultimately raised $1.44 billion — and oversaw the completion of the Haas School of Business, the Gardiner Stacks of Doe Library, Soda Hall, and the University Health Service's Tang Center.


Ira Michael Heyman, 1980-1990

Ira Michael HeymanThe decade of Ira Michael Heyman's (1930-2011) campus leadership saw a dramatic increase in the number of undergraduate students of color — from 21 percent of the student body in 1980 to 57 percent in 1990 — a change that Heyman said was a "service" to California higher education. His tenure also included a major effort to replace aging research facilities, especially in the life sciences. Academic programs in the biosciences were restructured to reflect and foster new fields in biology and biotechnology, and four bioscience buildings were completed or begun during the decade: the Life Sciences Addition, renovation of the Valley Life Sciences Building, Koshland Hall, and the Genetics and Plant Biology Building. In addition, construction of the Foothill Student Housing and the Recreational Sports Facility enhanced student life during the Heyman years. As state budgets for the University continued to shrink, Heyman led an effort that tripled private giving to the campus.


Albert H. Bowker, 1971-1980

Albert H. BowkerAlbert H. Bowker (1919-2008) came to Berkeley to become chancellor after a career on the mathematics and statistics faculty at Stanford University and then eight years as chancellor of the City University of New York. His years as Berkeley's chancellor were marked by tightening budgets for the state and the University, leading Bowker to establish the UC Berkeley Foundation and the beginnings of a major fund-raising program for the campus. Private funds were raised for the Bechtel Engineering Center and an addition to Minor Hall, the optometry building. His term also saw the creation of Women's Intercollegiate Athletics as a separate department, parallel to the men's sports program. In 1973 Bowker drafted a report to the Regents entitled "Berkeley in a Steady State," outlined a model for renewing campus facilities, called for student participation in Chancellor's advisory committees, and discussed issues facing the campus in light of a new era of reduced state budgets.


Roger W. Heyns, 1965-1971

Roger W. HeynsA psychologist from the University of Michigan, Roger W. Heyns (1918-1995) came to Berkeley as chancellor "like a gift from heaven," in the words of President Clark Kerr. He set goals to reestablish the credibility of campus leadership, assure that political activities did not interfere with teaching and research, strengthen campus staff, and improve students' educational experience. A tireless advocate for undergraduate education, he established the office of the student ombudsman and the Educational Opportunity Program, one of the nation's first student affirmative-action programs. Also during his tenure, the Graduate School of Public Policy was established and work was completed on Moffitt Undergraduate Library, the Space Sciences Laboratory, and the University Art Museum. Heyns was also the first chancellor to live on campus in University House.


Martin E. Meyerson, 1965 (acting)

Martin E. MeyersonMartin E. Meyerson (1922-2007) served as acting chancellor for six months, following the turbulent months of the Free Speech Movement and the resignation of Chancellor Edward Strong. He had a distinguished career at the University of Chicago, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania before joining the Berkeley faculty in 1963 as dean of the College of Environmental Design. As acting chancellor, he aided efforts to promote more effective teaching and to improve relationships among students, faculty, and administrators in the wake of the FSM.


Edward W. Strong, 1961-1965

Edward W. StrongA sociologist and philosopher, Edward W. Strong (1901-1990) served in a variety of academic posts on the Berkeley campus — from chair of two departments to vice chancellor for academic affairs — before becoming chancellor. During his tenure he helped secure major donations for improvements to International House and to augment the collection of the Bancroft Library. He also saw the completion of Latimer, Barrows, Wurster and Etcheverry Halls. His administration's achievements were overshadowed by the Free Speech Movement, in fall 1964, which brought with it three months of student unrest and campus disruption and led to Strong's resignation in 1965.


Glenn T. Seaborg, 1958-1961

Glenn T. SeaborgNobel laureate Glenn T. Seaborg (1912-1999), one of the great chemists of the 20th century, served three years as chancellor, overseeing a period of steady enrollment growth, the beginning of planning for the Lawrence Hall of Science, and creation of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. As a scientist, he co-discovered plutonium-238 and -239, as well as nine other elements beyond uranium in the periodic table, including element 106, seaborgium. He was an influential adviser on national science policy to 10 U.S. presidents; he left the chancellorship when President Kennedy appointed him chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, a post he held from 1961 to 1971.


Clark Kerr, 1952-1958

Clark KerrUC Berkeley's first chancellor, Clark Kerr (1911-2003) guided the campus during an era of intense planning and growth that helped build its reputation as a major research university, and laid the groundwork for core student services. Kerr launched planning for spaces that would become the heart of the campus, among them student housing, the student union and dining commons, and Zellerbach Hall. As president of the University of California from 1958 to 1967, he was chief architect of the master plan that has guided California public higher education since 1960 and remains a national model. Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl called him "the father of the modern University of California."