Director Breslauer has provided outstanding leadership as part of his long and fruitful academic career at the University of California, Berkeley. He restored undergraduate education to its rightful place at Berkeley and played a key role in ensuring that UC Berkeley would remain one of the world’s leading universities in spite of an unprecedented withdrawal of state funding.
George W. Breslauer was born in New York City on March 4, 1946. He received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from the University of Michigan in 1966, 1968, and 1973, respectively. In 1971, Director Breslauer joined Berkeley’s faculty as a specialist on Soviet politics and foreign relations. He advanced through the ranks to full professor of political science, was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award of the College of Letters & Science’s Division of Social Sciences in 1997, and was appointed Chancellor’s Professor in 1998. In 2013, he received the Berkeley Citation for outstanding service to the University.
Director Breslauer is the author or editor of 12 books on Soviet and Russian politics and foreign relations, most recently Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders (Cambridge University Press, 2002). He has served as editor of the scholarly quarterly, Post-Soviet Affairs (1992 to the present). Professionally, he also served on the Board of Trustees of the National Council for Soviet and East European Research, the National Research Council’s Committee on the Contributions of the Social and Behavioral Sciences to the Prevention of Nuclear War, and on the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
At Berkeley, Director Breslauer served as chair of the Center for Slavic and East European Studies (1984-1994), chair of the Department of Political Science (1993-1996), dean of the Division of Social Sciences, (1999-2006), and executive dean of the College of Letters and Science (2005-2006). He served as the executive vice chancellor and provost, the campus’s chief academic officer, from 2006 to 2014.
Asked to assess his own tenure as provost, Breslauer cited his efforts to increase academic salaries, cushion the impacts of budget cuts, recruit and retain stellar faculty, and recruit 22 deans, directors, and vice provosts. The latter were admirably diverse, including males, females, Caucasians, Asians and African-Americans. In the late 2000s, which was the worst part of the state’s disinvestment in higher education, Director Breslauer organized regular budget meetings of the senior leadership team and played a central role in the transformation of our budget model, which enabled us to endure the cuts and to ultimately flourish. Director Breslauer interacted continuously and synergistically with the Academic Senate, most especially on matters of budget and faculty hiring and promotions.
In true Clark Kerr scholarly style, George wrote or co-wrote several influential essays on Berkeley’s administration, which will inform Berkeley senior administrators for generations to come. All have been published online by the Center for Studies in Higher Education: “What Made Berkeley Great? The Sources of Berkeley’s Sustained Academic Excellence”; “Modernizing Governance at the University of California”; and “UC Berkeley’s Adaptations to the Crisis of Public Higher Education in the U.S.: Privatization? Commercialization? or Hybridization?”
He is proud of his efforts to improve the physical infrastructure for faculty, staff, and students. Breslauer championed new lighting systems for Zellerbach Playhouse and Zellerbach Hall, the refurbishing of Dwinelle Hall, the “Year of the Roofs” –- a project involving the repair of about a dozen leaking roofs in academic buildings — and, on its heels, the “Year of the Elevators.”
Director Breslauer also consistently pushed for improvements in undergraduate education, funding a large addition of lecturers and graduate-student instructors to teach badly needed class sections in subjects like reading and composition, foreign languages, the sciences, and math. He played the leadership role in nurturing Berkeley Connect, a mentoring program linking faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, which was a great success in its pilot form in the Department of English and now serves many students across the campus. Finally, in 2015, Director Breslauer agreed to be recalled from retirement to serve as the first faculty director of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.
In summary, we believe that Director George Breslauer is exceptionally well qualified to receive the 2016 Clark Kerr Medal. He will bring honor to the memory of Clark Kerr just as this medal will bring honor to him.