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. 

Robert Zimmer, former President of the University of Chicago and Amy Gutmann, Ambassador of Berlin and former President of the University of Pennsylvania are recognized this year for their contributions to higher education and for having led transformational change at their respective institutions.

Robert Zimmer and Amy Gutmann are the recipients of the 2023 Clark Kerr Award.

As the late president of the University of Chicago, Prof. Zimmer demonstrated exceptional academic leadership, setting a standard of excellence and innovation that nurtured the reputation of the university as one of the world's preeminent research institutions. He was the president of the University of Chicago from 2006 to 2021. In this role, he also served as the Chair of the Board for Argonne National Lab, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Before that, he was a faculty member specializing in mathematics for over two decades. Prof. Zimmer served as Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Deputy Provost. He also served as Provost at Brown University from 2002 to 2006. He was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was a member of the National Science Board, the governing body of the National Science Foundation, from 2011 to 2016 and also served on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science from 2008 to 2010. 

As the president of the University, Prof. Zimmer oversaw a period of remarkable growth and achievement. Under his guidance, the university attracted top-tier faculty and students, expanded its research output, and cemented its reputation as a center of academic excellence. Prof. Zimmer's commitment to promoting interdisciplinary research and collaboration was a driving force behind many of the university's most significant achievements in those years. He spearheaded efforts to establish new interdisciplinary research centers and institutes, including the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, and the Institute for Molecular Engineering. Zimmer’s administration tripled the number of undergraduates and increased student financial aid.

The Clark Kerr Award celebrates Prof. Zimmer's deep commitment to academic freedom and free inquiry. He championed the importance of protecting these values, even facing external pressures and challenges. He convened the Committee on Freedom of Expression that produced the “Chicago principles,” which are a set of guidelines asserting the importance of free speech, open inquiry and robust and uninhibited debate on campus. These principles affirm that universities have a unique responsibility to protect and promote intellectual freedom and that this freedom is essential to the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of society. These principles help to ensure that universities remain open and inclusive spaces for intellectual inquiry.  The “Chicago principles” have been adopted by many institutions and have become a touchstone for debates on this topic.

Professor Zimmer passed away in May 2023.

Amy Gutmann was born in New York.  Her father was from an Orthodox Jewish family, and he was living in Germany when Adolf Hitler ascended to power.  He fled, bringing his four siblings to India.  Gutmann told Adam Bryant of The New York Times in June 2011: The biggest influences on me for leading preceded my ever even thinking of myself as a leader—particularly my father's experience leaving Nazi Germany. Because I would not even exist if it weren't for his combination of courage and farsightedness. He saw what was coming with Hitler and he took all of his family and left for India. That took a lot of courage. That is always something in the back of my mind. 

Gutmann attended Radcliffe College of Harvard University as a math major, received membership in Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated magna cum laude in 1971.  She received a Master of Science in political science from the London School of Economics in 1972, and a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University in 1976. She was the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Gutmann taught at Princeton University from 1976 to 2004. In 1990, she became the first Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor at Princeton and the founding director of its University Center for Human Values, which was among the first among the first university-wide multi-disciplinary ethics centers in the world. As provost at Princeton University from 2001 to 2004, she oversaw Princeton's plan to expand the undergraduate student body by 10 percent.

In 2004, she became the eighth President of the University of Pennsylvania, and her tenure as a President was the longest in the school’s history.  Her leadership has been called transformational. She was committed to making Penn a global leader in teaching, research, and professional practice, and a force for social, economic, and civic progress. In her role as President, Gutmann oversaw fundraising campaigns at Penn that yielded over 10 billion dollars—more than doubling the school’s endowment.

Gutmann has been a leading national advocate of using financial aid and other tools to promote socioeconomic diversity in higher education. Gutmann made Penn one of the handful of universities in the country that substitute grants for loans for any undergraduate student with financial need. In September 2009, for the first time in Penn's history, all undergraduates eligible for financial aid received grants rather than loans in their aid packages. Students from typical families with incomes less than $90,000 paid no tuition and fees, and those with incomes less than $40,000 also paid no room and board.  In 2017, one out of eight incoming Penn students were the first in their families to attend college, up from one out of 20 in 2004. 

She was passionate about Penn making contributions locally, nationally and globally.  One illustration of this was the University's $100 million commitment to the Philadelphia School District to remediate environmental hazards. Under her leadership, the school developed the President's Engagement Prize, which provide up to $150,000 annually for graduating seniors to design and implement impactful local, national, and global engagement projects. 

She became the US Ambassador to Germany in 2022.