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UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to retire at end of 2012

March 13, 2012 | 11:28 am

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, who has led that prestigious campus for nearly eight years through a period of budget cuts, Nobel Prizes and campus protests, announced Tuesday that he would retire on Dec. 31.

A Canadian-born physicist who became UC Berkeley’s ninth chancellor in September 2004, Birgeneau, 69, said he actually has stayed in the job longer than he originally anticipated because of the budget crisis facing the UC system and his efforts to leave the campus in good financial shape.

“Although challenges still remain,” Birgeneau said in a statement released Tuesday, “I am confident that we have put into place a clear pathway for the years ahead and strategies that will support Berkeley’s ongoing excellence and its impact on the world.”

Some of his efforts have been controversial, such as sharply increasing the percentage of undergraduates from other states and countries in order to reap the extra tuition they pay. Other initiatives have been widely praised, including a plan announced in December that would extend financial aid to thousands of students from households earning $80,000 to $140,000 a year.

Birgeneau presided over the highly political campus during an uptick in student activism over tuition hikes and other issues, and he had to cope with the recurring protests of the Occupy movement over the past year. In December 2009, several dozen protesters attacked his campus house, smashing windows, lights and planters as well as throwing torches at the home and police vehicles. The chancellor and his wife were home but were not hurt in the incident, which led to eight arrests.

UC system President Mark G. Yudof praised Birgeneau on Tuesday. “In his more than seven years as chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, Robert Birgeneau has proven to be a passionate, dedicated and effective steward of the world’s greatest public university. He has been an ardent champion of academic excellence, as well as an unwavering advocate for the underdog,” Yudof said in a statement.

Before coming to UC Berkeley, Birgeneau was president of the University of Toronto, Canada's largest public university, and was a longtime physics professor and dean of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said he plans to stay at UC Berkeley as a teacher and researcher.


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