Breslauer honored with 2016 Clark Kerr Award

UC Berkeley professor emeritus George Breslauer is the recipient of the 2016 Clark Kerr Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education.

The award will be presented at a private ceremony in March.

Professor George Breslauer is recognized for his many contributions to public higher education.

Professor George Breslauer is recognized for his many contributions to public higher education.

An expert on Soviet politics and foreign relations, Breslauer joined the Berkeley political science faculty in 1971, after earning a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan.

He has served in a multitude of roles, including as chair of the political science department and of the Center for Slavic and East European Studies, dean of the Division of Social Sciences and executive dean of the College of Letters and Science. From 2006 to 2014, the New York City native was Berkeley’s executive vice chancellor and provost, managing the campus’s day-to-day operations and budgeting.

A letter from the Committee on Faculty Awards for the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate cited accomplishments that merit the Clark Kerr Award, which is a tribute to the leadership and legacy of President Emeritus Kerr, Berkeley’s first chancellor, and recognition of extraordinary contributions to the advancement of higher education. Past recipients include the late California governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and past Berkeley Chancellors Ira Michael Heyman and Chang-Lin Tien.

Berkeley's first chancellor, Clark Kerr.

Berkeley’s first chancellor, Clark Kerr.

The letter, signed by the committee chair, professor Peter Berck, called Breslauer exceptionally well-qualified to receive the Clark Kerr Award. “He will bring honor to the memory of Clark Kerr just as this medal will bring honor to him,” Berck wrote.

Berck noted several of Breslauer’s key contributions at Berkeley:

  • Consistently pushing for improvements in undergraduate education and for funding of a large increase in lecturers and graduate student instructors to teach subjects such as reading and composition, foreign languages, math and the sciences.
  • Leading a drive to boost academic salaries, ease the impacts of budget cuts and recruit and retain a diverse group of top faculty and administrators.
  • Writing several influential essays on Berkeley’s administration, including “What Made Berkeley Great? The Sources of Berkeley’s Sustained Academic Excellence” and “UC Berkeley’s Adaptations to the Crisis of Public Higher Education in the U.S.: Privatization? Commercialization? Or Hybridization?”
  • Providing leadership support for Berkeley Connect, a mentoring program uniting faculty, undergraduates and graduate students that began in the English department and has since spread across campus.
  • Working to improve lighting for Zellerbach Hall and Zellerbach Playhouse, and to refurbish Dwinelle Hall.
  • Coming back from retirement to serve as the first faculty director of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.
  • Authoring or editing 12 books on Soviet and Russian politics and foreign relations, most recently Gorbachev and Yeltsin as Leaders (2002).
  • Editing Post-Soviet Affairs, a scholarly journal, continuously since 1992.
  • Serving on the National Research Council’s Committee on the Contributions of the Social and Behavioral Sciences to the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Breslauer was awarded the Distinguished Teaching Award in social sciences in 1997, was appointed Chancellor’s Professor in 1998 and received the Berkeley Citation, one of the campus’s highest honors, in 2013. In 2014 he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

“I have spent my entire career at this extraordinary university, striving to meet its high standards in my teaching, scholarship and administrative leadership,” said Breslauer in response to the Clark Kerr Award. ”Let me extend sincere thanks to the UC Berkeley Academic Senate for its appreciation of the fruits of my efforts.  Surely, recognition by one’s academic peers is the most gratifying form of validation.”


  • A feature profile of Breslauer ran in Berkeley News in 2013.
  • Find Breslauer’s speech on fighting to save public higher education in California at a 2011 higher education rally in Sacramento here.