Former UCSC chancellor Karl S. Pister dies at 96


Former UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Karl S. Pister, who has dedicated more than 70 years to the University of California, higher education and expanding educational opportunities for students in the kindergarten to university, died on Saturday May 14 at his home in Ruisseau Noyer. He was 96 years old.

Pister had a distinguished career in higher education, beginning as professor of structural engineering and dean of engineering at UC Berkeley and rising to chancellor of UC Santa Cruz and vice president of UC. Well into his 80s, he continued work that guided the direction of education and science, especially in California.

“Karl was the academic leader par excellence. In every role he undertook, he significantly strengthened the University of California, said UC President Michael V. Drake, MD. “His work had a lasting impact in California and across the country, as well as on many generations of UC students and alumni. He was a wonderful and wise teacher, mentor, supporter and kind friend to me and many others lucky enough to know him during his long and distinguished career. He will be missed.”

Pister was a champion of broad and equitable access to the University of California and a strong advocate for ensuring that all qualified students had the opportunity to pursue an education at UC. After California’s Proposition 209 passed in 1996 – which prohibited state institutions from considering race, gender or ethnicity in admissions and hiring – his voice was strong in ensuring that the he university maintains vigorous outreach programs to California’s underrepresented students.

He was also known as a catalyst for collaboration, developing creative partnerships across disciplines, educational institutions, government, industry and communities to advance education at all levels.

As chancellor of UC Santa Cruz from 1991 to 1996, Pister embraced UC Santa Cruz’s experimental tradition and strong undergraduate education, while working to strengthen its foundations, research enterprise, and growth. . He led the campus through the drastic cuts in UC public funding, oversaw a 30% increase in research funding, established clearly defined parameters for the development and protection of campus grounds, and significantly improved cooperation between cities.

“When Karl became Chancellor in 1991, it was an eventful time for our campus,” said current UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive. “State budget cuts were looming, there were protests over land use, strained relations with the city, and consensus on campus seemed out of reach. Karl’s leadership allowed us to move to through, with his commitment to transparency, collaboration, and the kind of problem-solving that defines an exceptional engineer, he has made a difference on our campus that endures.

Pister joined other UC chancellors in 1995 in issuing a unanimous public statement imploring UC regents to reverse their stance against affirmative action in admissions, and he led UC Santa Cruz to deepen awareness-raising efforts. He founded the Campus Leadership Opportunity Awards, now named in his honor, which helps outstanding but low-income students from 13 community colleges make the leap to earn their degrees at UC Santa Cruz.

In 2000, Pister became the University of California’s first vice president for educational outreach, leading UC’s efforts to improve education for underrepresented students in California. Under his leadership, the university has developed perhaps the most comprehensive network of school-university collaborations in the country, working with many low-performing schools to improve outcomes. Largely due to her advocacy, the state budget for this work has increased, and the university has also expanded its role in training K-12 teachers and addressing the shortage of school principals. ‘school.

A child of Stockton school teachers

Karl Stark Pister was born in Stockton, California, the son of two high school teachers. He and his younger brother, Phil, owned 320 acres and a home his family had owned since the mid-1800s. He topped his high school class, but entered UC Berkeley as a civil engineering student. threw him a significant curveball.

“I was not disadvantaged academically. It was culture shock,” he said, according to an interview published in California magazine in 2006 when he was named UC Berkeley Alumnus of the Year. He said the experience informed his work with students throughout his life and led him to advocate fiercely to help first-generation and underrepresented students on their journey to a college degree.

Pister earned his BS in Civil Engineering at Berkeley in 1945, interrupting his studies to serve in the Navy during the final year of World War II, when he served in Okinawa, Japan. He returned for a master’s degree at Berkeley, where he met Rita Olsen, a classmate who was working on a teaching certificate, at a dance at Hearst Gymnasium. They married in 1950 in Oakland and moved to Illinois for Pister’s doctoral studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

After Pister got his Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics in 1952, the couple returned to California. They settled in Lafayette, where they raised their six children, two sons and four daughters.

That same year, he joined the faculty of civil engineering at Berkeley. He became an international authority on structural mechanics and earthquake engineering, a founding father of the field of computational mechanics, and a pioneer in the use of computers to analyze the design of buildings, bridges, and other structures.

Coupled with his teaching and research, he became a campus leader, including chairing the nine-campus Academic Council of UC’s Academic Senate in the late 1970s and serving as a faculty representative on the Academic Council. administration of the UC.

Pister’s institutional leadership led to his selection as Dean of the College of Engineering at Berkeley in 1980. He became a leading voice nationally on issues of engineering education and in the development of science policy and technology at the federal and state levels. As Dean, he led Berkeley’s top-ranked engineering programs through a period of considerable evolution, overcoming the challenges posed by shrinking state budgets for the university.

In 1991, UC President David P. Gardner enlisted the help of his legendary predecessor, Clark Kerr, to recruit Pister as UC Santa Cruz’s sixth chancellor. Pister signed in August 1991 for a two-year term as acting chancellor. Within seven months, the once skeptical faculty successfully pressured UC leaders to erase “interim” from its title. He then served a full five-year term as chancellor.

Pister’s work on the Central Coast was not limited to the Santa Cruz campus. He helped convert Fort Ord into the California State University, Monterey Bay campus, co-founded a partnership consortium between UC Santa Cruz and local K-12 schools, and worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to develop research in Monterey Bay. National Marine Sanctuary.

After his chancellorship, Pister continued to focus on equal access to education in the office of the UC President from 1996 to 2000. He created and led the new UC Office of Education Outreach. education devoted to these efforts, earning praise for its success.

In the years that followed, he held a dizzying array of positions aimed at strengthening education, including president of the California Council for Science and Technology, director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley, founding president of the Board on Engineering Education of the National Research Council and member of the Board of Trustees of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He was also a founding trustee and treasurer of the American University of Armenia.

A lifelong Catholic, Pister has also been active in church and ecumenical activities, including serving as a board member of the Graduate Theological Union, a Berkeley multidenominational consortium of seminaries and centers for theological study. He also served as Regent of the Franciscan School of Theology at Berkeley, which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Pister’s honors list is extensive. He was a Fellow of the National Academy of Engineering, the highest professional honor for an American engineer, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For his extraordinary contributions to the University of California and higher education, he received the UC Presidential Medal, the Clark Kerr Award, the Berkeley Medal, and the Berkeley Citation. The American Society for Engineering Education awarded him its highest honors for his contributions to engineering education and the advancement of minorities in engineering. He was twice selected as a Fulbright Scholar and has won numerous honors from national engineering societies.

Pister’s wife of 60 years, Rita, died in 2011. He is survived by their six children – Karl Francis Pister (Roger Renn) of Concord; Tracy Pearse Mulder of Stockton; Anita Pister-Khus of Concorde; Jacinta Pister (Richard Whitmore) of Lafayette; Claire Brouwer (Kurt) from Waikoloa Village, Hawaii; and Kristofer Pister (Jennifer) of Orinda—10 grandchildren, Sarena, Brendan (Lexy), Stark, Ann, Nathaniel, Kaiser (Mary Kate), Elijah, Marie, Veronika and Luke; his great-grandson, Maverick; her brother, Phil Pister of Bishop, California; and her dear friend and partner, Germaine LaBerge of Berkeley.

The family is planning a private funeral. A public memorial service will be held on a date to be announced later.

In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made either to the Karl S. and Rita Olsen Pister Graduate Fellowship Fund at UC Berkeley (UC Berkeley Foundation, 1995 University Ave., Suite 400, Berkeley, CA 94704-1070) or to the Rita Olsen Pister Scholarship Fund at UC Santa Cruz ( or UC Santa Cruz Foundation, 1156 High St., Santa Cruz, CA 95064).


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