The man behind your education and Pell Grant

Katharine Enoch

Clark Kerr, who helped create the model of the modern American higher-education system, died two weeks ago following complications from a fall. He was 92 years old. During his career in college administration, he served as chancellor of UC Berkeley in the 1950s and president of the University of California system from 1958-1967, where he presided over a period of rapid growth in the UC system. His successes allowed him to develop what has now become the model for higher education.

He recreated universities, not as ivory towers as they were thought to be, but as research powerhouses and places for teaching and researching. From this, he coined the phrase, ” the multiversity.”

As chairman of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education and the Carnegie Council on Policy Studies in Higher Education during the 1970s, Kerr changed the policy on student financial aid. Instead of giving aid to the universities, he proposed to give federal aid directly to needy students. Thus was created the Basic Education Opportunity Grant in 1972, the precursor of today’s Pell Grant.

Kerr has been called, “the last, and probably first, national spokesman for higher education,” by former chancellor of the California State University System Barry Munitz. Chancellor of the UC Berkeley campus Robert M. Berdahl has also said, “We’re not likely to see leadership like Clark Kerr in higher education again.”

Quotes courtesy of The Chronicle for Higher Education.

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