Clark Kerr Award


Hanna Holborn Gray


The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate has announced that Dr. Hanna Holborn Gray, President Emerita and Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of History at the University of Chicago, will receive the 2015 Clark Kerr Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education.  The award was presented at a private ceremony on the Berkeley campus in May.

Dr. Gray’s career in higher education can only be characterized as spectacular. Entering Bryn Mawr College at age 15, she graduated and travelled to Oxford University as a Fulbright Scholar.  After receiving her Ph.D. degree in history from Harvard University in 1957, she taught and was appointed Assistant Professor in 1959 as an historian of Renaissance and Reformation political thought. She joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1961 in the Department of History, receiving tenure in 1964. 

Early recognition of her administrative ability took her to Northwestern University in 1972 as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, one of numerous appointments she was to hold as the first woman in the position. From there she went to Yale University as Provost and Professor of History during the period 1974 to 1978, serving briefly as Acting President.

Dr. Gray returned to the University of Chicago as President in 1978, where she served until retirement in 1993. In her inaugural address she declared that the greatest danger ahead “…would be to engage in an apparently principled descent to decent mediocrity”.

Her tenure was marked by an aggressive agenda to deal with this danger. Examples are the construction of a new science quadrangle, the replacement of an aging hospital with the Bernard Mitchell Hospital and Arthur Rubloff Intensive Care Tower, and new facilities for the Law School library and Court Theatre.

Her administration made extensive changes in Ph.D. programs, reducing the time to graduation while initiating workshops and internships to broaden the skills of students writing dissertations.

Gray’s influence and impact on higher education was not confined to Chicago and her earlier academic appointments. She served as trustee of the Newberry Library, the Marlboro School of Music, the Dan David Prize, and several non-profit institutions. She also served on the boards of Bryn Mawr College, Harvard University, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Pulitzer Prize Board, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, Yale University, and the Mayo Foundation, among others.

The quality of her professional life has been widely recognized by others: Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Education, the Renaissance Society of America and the Council on Foreign Relations of New York. She has been awarded honorary degrees from over 60 institutions, including Brown, Chicago, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Michigan, Oxford, Princeton, Rockefeller, Toronto, and Yale. She was also chosen as a Clark Kerr Lecturer at Berkeley in 2009.

Dr. Gray was one of 12 distinguished foreign-born Americans to receive the Medal of Liberty from President Ronald Reagan in 1986. In 1991, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Among other awards she has received are the Jefferson Medal of the American Philosophical Society and the National Humanities Medal in 1993. In 1996, she received the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and, in 2006, the Newberry Library Award. In 2008, she received the Chicago History Maker Award of the Chicago History Museum.

Dr. Gray’s career exemplifies the qualities of academic leadership one would expect to see in a recipient for the prestigious Clark Kerr Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education. 


History of the Clark Kerr Award