Robert Powell, Robson Professor of Political Science, is an exemplary recipient of the Berkeley Faculty Service Award. One of our own Ph.D.s in economics, he has served the campus with great distinction and dedication in a multitude of roles. These culminated most recently in his appointment as Division chair, not for the normal period of one year, but for three entire semesters from March 2016 through August 2017. Through all this exceptionally trying period, one of the most turbulent times in the campus’s recent history, Powell gave calm and steady leadership and advice, offering reason, confidence, and good humor when many were given to panic and dismay.
His professional experience and expertise were singularly apt for undertaking this challenge. Bob is a specialist in government at many levels, including we must note for its timeliness, strategies for avoiding nuclear war. During his quarter century on the faculty, he has served the campus and the university as a member of many Senate committees, including Academic Freedom (1997-2002, the last two years as chair and also served on the corresponding UC committee), Privilege and Tenure (2008-09 and 2010-14, last year as chair), and Research (2014-15, as chair). He has also served on two departmental review committees, including chairing the internal review of Demography in 2000; directed the Center on Institutions and Governance; and served as a member of the University Committee on Research, its subcommittee on the University’s relationship with the national laboratories, and the UC Academic Council Special Committee on the National Laboratories. Last year, while leading the Berkeley Division, he also co-chaired the Chancellor’s Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics.
Powell became chair of the Berkeley Division midyear in 2016 when his predecessor, Benjamin Hermalin, was suddenly appointed vice-provost for the faculty. He moved on from being vice-chair with characteristic effectiveness. As Vice Provost Hermalin himself writes:
“Bob made sure that the faculty's concerns were understood by the administration and respected. He was a strong defender of the prerogatives of the faculty and the role of shared governance, but without being dogmatic or rigid. He recognized that there was no one voice of the faculty, yet, where possible, he was able to build consensus. He exemplified the virtues of fairness, honesty, and transparency that we wish to see in our leaders. “
Mary Firestone, also a former chair of the Berkeley Division, describes Powell as “the person that I would want in charge or at my side when faced with consequential, Gordian issues. He is thoughtful, incisive, and he cares about people and the University.”
This view, which is echoed across the campus, makes Bob Powell a superb recipient of the Berkeley Faculty Service Award.