Kerr, Clark (1911-2003)

167 Clark Kerr

Clark Kerr and the Founding of UC Santa Cruz

Photo: Clark Kerr, President of the University of California, Emeritus

For the complete text of Clark Kerr and the Founding of UC Santa Cruz (escholarship). Includes complete audio (streaming or download) for the oral history. Note: Due to editing by the narrator and the Project, there may be minor differences between the audio recording and the transcript. Please quote from the transcript as the record and not the audio. Audio will be found under "Supporting Material."

For the complete text of Clark Kerr and the Founding of UC Santa Cruz (UCSC Library Digital Collections)

1988, 45 pp., 1 illus.

Copyright Restrictions

PLEASE NOTE these interviews are provided for research purposes only. All uses of these manuscripts are covered by copyright agreement between the interviewees and the Regents of the University of California. All the literary rights in these manuscripts, including the right to publish, are reserved to the University of California, Santa Cruz. No part of these manuscripts may be quoted for publication without the permission of the University Librarian of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

As President of the University of California during the period 1958-67, Kerr initiated, lobbied for, and oversaw UC's greatest era of expansion. In this volume of memoirs, Kerr discusses UCSC's origins in the context of the UC system's overall growth and evolution. He addresses three aspects of the campus's history. First, he reviews the thinking and planning which led up to the establishing of three new UC campuses (UCSC, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego) and their integration into the system as equal and autonomous campuses. He explains the demographics which gave the impetus to UC's growth; the role of the UC Regents; and his own lobbying efforts within both UC and the state legislature to gain political support for this major undertaking. Second, Kerr outlines in considerable detail his own contributions to the shaping of UCSC.

Two important influences were his own undergraduate experience at Swarthmore College, and his tenure as Chancellor of UC Berkeley from 1952-58, which influenced his departure from conventional thinking in the creation of UCSC as an "alternative campus" within the UC system.  Conceiving of a research university built around small residential colleges, with an emphasis on undergraduate education, close faculty-student interaction, and human-scale community life, was Kerr's contribution to the UC system and not incidentally, imaginative institutional response to the contemporary student movement's critique of the multiversity as a sort of dehumanizing intellectual factory system.

Kerr discusses the selection of Dean E. McHenry as UCSC's founding Chancellor and their close collaboration in campus planning and design, indicating the specifics of their shared vision as well as their differences. He describes the site selection process, the eventual selection of the old Cowell Ranch, and how decisions on campus land-use, architecture, and landscape design were integral to their overall vision. In the final portion of the memoir Kerr provides an assessment of UCSC as it has come of age, detailing its strengths and weaknesses; touching on the campus's organizational, academic, and cultural status as it continues the process of self-definition towards a mature identity. He also comments on the evolution of student activism here and how it has influenced perceptions of the campus.