At a dinner in May, the UC Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate gave its highest honor, the Clark Kerr Award, to two people with high-profile connections to the Berkeley campus, Robert M. Berdahl, who was Berkeley’s eighth chancellor, and Marian C. Diamond, professor emeritus of integrative biology and a world-renowned brain researcher.
The award, created in 1968, is given for distinguished leadership in higher education. Its namesake, Clark Kerr, was a leader of the Berkeley campus and the UC system as well as a prominent national figure in higher education.
Marian Diamond has not only taught and done research here for many decades, she is a three-degree Berkeley alumna, with a 1948 B.A., a 1949 M.A., and a 1953 doctorate (which was the first Ph.D. given to a woman by what was then called the Department of Anatomy). A pioneer and innovator in education, Diamond’s fundamental insights on the human brain have changed our understanding and led to new ways of enriching the learning environment. She was influential in improving the American preschool through 12th grade science and mathematics curricula, and she touched many young people through her directorship of Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science from 1990 to 1996. Her passion for education has benefited thousands of students, not only at Berkeley and across the U.S., but also abroad. Among her many initiatives, she established a program “Enrichment in Action” for orphans in Cambodia to give them a better chance at leading healthy lives. Her brain research has led directly to practical applications that have improved education. A recipient of the Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award, she was named the Cal Alumni Association’s Alumna of the Year in 1995.
Robert Berdahl led the Berkeley campus from 1997 to 2004 and later served as president of the Association of American Universities, where he helped promote federal and private investment in research. He is now acting president at the University of Oregon, where he previously was a faculty member and dean.
People with Berkeley graduate degrees have won 14 of the 47 Clark Kerr awards given to date, nearing a third — not bad at all for an honor that is not at all restricted to Berkeley, but is given for “an extraordinary and distinguished contribution to the advancement of higher education.” Non-Berkeley-alumni winners have included presidents of Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, and the UC system, chancellors of Berkeley and UCLA, and a U.S. senator. Some winners who happened to be grad alumni also fit in multiple categories of endeavor, such as the award’s namesake, Clark Kerr Ph.D. ’39 (who was a Berkeley economics professor, the first chancellor of this campus, and the UC system’s 12th president). Other high-profile multitasking grad alumni winners include Earl Warren B.A. ’12, LL.B. ’14 (California’s 30th governor, 12th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), and Glenn T. Seaborg Ph.D. ’37 (Berkeley chemistry professor and second chancellor, discoverer of numerous transuranium elements, Nobel Laureate, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and adviser to 10 U.S. presidents).