Sad news regarding former Chancellor Karl S. Pister

To: UCSC Community

From: Cindy Larive, Chancellor

I write today with the sad news that former UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Karl S. Pister, who devoted a remarkable 70 years to the University of California and to expanding educational opportunities for students, died Saturday, May 14, at his home in Walnut Creek. He was 96.

Chancellor Pister, who led UCSC from 1991 to 1996, embraced his time in Santa Cruz, arriving here after nearly 40 years as a structural engineering professor at UC Berkeley, with time as Berkeley’s dean of engineering. The 1990s were a turbulent time for our campus. State budget cuts were looming, there were protests over land use, tense relations with the city, and consensus on campus seemed out of reach. Chancellor Pister’s leadership brought us through. He demonstrated a commitment to transparency, working together, and the kind of problem-solving that defines an exceptional engineer. He made a difference on our campus that endures to this day.

Throughout his career, Chancellor Pister championed broad and equitable access to the University of California. After the 1996 passage of Proposition 209, which prohibited California institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in admissions and hiring, he led UCSC in deeping outreach programs to California’s underrepresented students. He also founded our Leadership Opportunity Awards, now rightfully named in his honor, that help outstanding low-income students from 13 community colleges make the jump to earn their degrees at UC Santa Cruz. To date, our campus has had a remarkable 326 Pister scholars, with another dozen or so coming this next academic year. What an incredible legacy.

I did not know Chancellor Pister personally, but he reached out after my arrival to campus to offer his best wishes and support. I greatly appreciated his kindness and generous nature.

Please join me in taking a moment to recognize Chancellor Pister’s contributions to campus, which are detailed in a story on our campus newscenter. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, and to those in our campus community who counted him a colleague and friend.