Clark Kerr Award

In 1968, the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate created the Clark Kerr Award as a tribute to the leadership and legacy of UC President Emeritus Kerr.

The Clark Kerr Award recognizes those who have made extraordinary and distinguished contributions to the advancement of higher education. Past recipients have come from inside and outside the Berkeley community, including former California Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, Lee Bollinger, Yuan T. Lee, and past Chancellors Ira Michael Heyman, Chang-Lin Tien, and Robert Berdahl. 

Carol Christ, former Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley and Sue Desmond-Hellmann the former Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and first female Chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) are recognized this year for their contributions to higher education and for having led transformational change at their respective institutions.

Carol Christ and Sue Desmond-Hellmann are the recipients of the 2024 Clark Kerr Award.

Carol Christ was the 11th Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. Christ received her B.A. (1966) from Douglass College, and her M.Ph. (1969) and Ph.D. (1970) from Yale University. Her term as Chancellor started on July 1, 2017. Prior to serving as Chancellor, Christ spent much of her career at UC Berkeley. She joined the English Department in 1970, and rose through the ranks to serve as Chair of the English department, Dean of the Division of Humanities, and Provost for the College of Letters and Science. Christ’s academic contributions have included two books, The Finer Optic: The Aesthetic of Particularity in Victorian Poetry (1975) and Victorian and Modern Poetics (1994). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Christ was appointed as UC Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost from 1994 until 2000. In this role, she worked tirelessly to maintain Berkeley’s academic and intellectual tradition. She also undertook major initiatives in areas including neuroscience and bioengineering.

In 2002, Christ left Berkeley to serve as president of Smith College, one of the country’s most distinguished liberal arts colleges. At Smith, she led a strategic rethinking of its academic programs. She stepped down from her role at Smith in 2013. In 2015, Christ returned to Berkeley to direct the campus’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, and was appointed interim executive vice chancellor and provost in April 2016 before being named chancellor in March 2017.

Since her appointment as Chancellor, Christ has been a highly effective leader. While no campus leader is ever likely to garner unanimous support on every issue, Christ is nevertheless widely admired by the Faculty for her steady hand navigating the numerous crises the campus has faced during her tenure as Chancellor, including ongoing financial challenges, People’s Park, and the global COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, despite constant short-term challenges, Christ has managed to keep her eyes on the horizon and has set in place a vision for Berkeley’s future. She has worked to foster community and improve the campus climate for people of all backgrounds, celebrate the institution's longstanding commitment to free speech, strengthen Berkeley's financial position, address a housing shortage, and develop a ten-year strategic plan for the campus.

Christ led one of the largest capital campaigns launched by any public or private U.S. university — UC Berkeley’s Light the Way: The Campaign for Berkeley. Its ambitious $6 billion goal was vastly surpassed, with more than $7.37 billion raised — the largest total in history for any public university and for any university without a medical school. Christ retired as Chancellor on June 30, 2024.

Sue Desmon-Hellmann, was the former Chief Executive Officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she led efforts to promote equity for all people around the world. She sets strategic priorities, monitors results and facilitates relationships with key partners. Dr. Desmond-Hellmann has deep expertise in health and medicine and a strong underpinning of working at a large institution.

Prior to joining the foundation in 2014, she was first female Chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), responsible for all aspects of the professional and graduate schools, medical center and research programs. She oversaw an in-depth review of the university’s business model, developed a comprehensive strategic plan, supported the creation of research partnerships with industry leaders such as Pfizer and Bayer and appointed UCSF’s first Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Outreach. She remains a full tenured professor at UCSF.

Prior to UCSF, Dr. Desmond-Hellmann spent 14 years at Genentech, where she served in a number of roles, ending as President, Product Development (2004–2009). She was responsible for Genentech’s pre-clinical and clinical development process, research and development, business development and product portfolio management. She also served as a member of Genentech’s executive committee. In March 2013, she was appointed to the board of directors at Facebook Inc., and since 2010 she has served on the board of directors of the Procter & Gamble Co.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann completed her undergraduate education and medical studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, followed by clinical training at UCSF, where she served as associate adjunct professor of epidemiology and biostatistics. She is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology and holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. During her training at UCSF, she spent two years as a visiting faculty member at the Uganda Cancer Institute studying HIV/AIDS and cancer. She later worked for two years in private practice as a medical oncologist before returning to clinical research.