University Presidents

[U]niversities have been extraordinarily durable as institutions and in terms of the functions they have performed in Western societies. Clark Kerr has counted that of seventy-five institutions founded before 1520, "which are [still] doing much the same things, in much the same ways and under the same names," about sixty are universities. This puts some universities in such company as the Roman Catholic Church, the Bank of Siena, and the Royal Mint. They are not there because of charismatic leaders.

Gephard Casper, former President of Stanford University, from the introduction to "Cares of the University."


As our discussions have made clear, there is much that can be learned about the history of higher education by studying the career trajectories of university presidents. The links below take you to resources for learning more about the presidents who have shown up in our readings.

Donald Kennedy, Stanford Clark Kerr, UC-Berkeley Fran Lawrence, Rutgers


Donald Kennedy, President of Stanford, 1980-1992. Currently Bing Professor of Environment Science at Stanford.

"In my own teaching in the human biology program and elsewhere, I try to persuade students that knowledge acquired for its own sake may be entertaining and important and may even advance the culture. But that to be truly educated they need to be able to take knowledge they've acquired and apply it to unique circumstances, to convert it to action and that in the process of conversion, the knowledge becomes not only of practical value but more important, connections are suggested between this body of knowledge and other bodies of knowledge. And most important of all, students get a sense of the power of knowledge, that it is translatable into something important, that you can work with the tools over unfamiliar ground and on unfamiliar materials and gain confidence that they will work." Interview with Donald Kennedy in "Becoming Stanford: The Making of an American University."

Kennedy's home page

"Becoming Stanford: The Making of an American University:" Interview with Kennedy, where he recounts how he came to be President of Stanford and why he decided to step down in 1992.

"Communicating Science to the Masses:" an interview with Kennedy, from 2001, shortly after he became editor of Science magazine.


Clark Kerr, Chancellor of UC-Berkeley, 1952-1958, President 1958-1967, Ph.D. in Economics

"The new biology is going to affect research in higher education more profoundly than anything that happened out of Shockwave I," Kerr said. And, he added, "It’s bringing intrusion of corporations into higher education more than ever before." Kerr speaking on the the challenges facing the university, Nov. 30th, 2001.

Information page on Kerr's tenure as chancellor.

Kerr's inaugural address, "The Worth of Intellect," Berkeley, Sept 1958

Alex Sherriff, vice-chancellor of student affairs under Kerry, provides an extended account of his growing disillussionment with Kerr during the late sixties.

And, from the same oral history project, an account of Kerr's resignation in '65 and his subsequent retraction of his resignation. Kerr was subsequently fired for being too lenient handling student unrest during the Free Speech Movement by the Board of Regents, acting on instructions from newly-elected governor Ronald Reagan in 1967.


Fran Lawrence, President of Rutgers University, 1990-

Testimony before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on National Security, March 28, 2001. (PDF version.)


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