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A Tribute to Gordon Rausser

A Tribute to Gordon Rausser



Master of Ceremonies
Rod Park
The Vice Chancellor Emeritus
Robert Berdahl
Ted Briggs
Past Chair, CNR Advisory Board
Peggy Lemaux
Cooperative Extension Specialist
Rachael Goodhue
Assistant Professor, UC Davis
Jill McClusky
Assistant Professor, Washington State University
George Judge
Professor Emeritus
Richard Gilbert and Thomas Jorde
Professors and Co-Founders, LECG
Ref Gomes
Vice President-Agriculture and Natural Resources
Barbara Allen-Diaz
Rick Standiford
Associate Dean of Forestry
Nancy Lewis
Assistant to the Dean
Stan Johnson
Vice Provost for Extension
Iowa State University
Carol Christ
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

NOVEMBER 15, 1999
Rod Park:

We are at a point this evening where dinner has been served, dessert is coming out and it is now time to start the program.  I am sure you are all aware that the CNR brings together many related sciences from agriculture and plant research to microbiology, plant biology, entomology and nutrition to create a place that relates theoretical university study to the problems of the real world.  Thus Gordon has a wide range of academic acquaintances and contacts within, as well as outside the University.  We will now hear from a few of these researchers, colleagues and former students— brief reminiscences about how Gordon has radiated influence into their lives.

Taking the privilege of Master of Ceremonies, I will start with a short observation.  Some of you may not know that Gordon grew up on a dairy farm near Lodi under the tutelage of a somewhat authoritarian German father.  He discovered during his youth that he was destined to leave the farm.  We might wonder why.  Perhaps it was the refrain from the Credence Clearwater revival song Lodi, “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.”  Or perhaps, it was the wisdom of author Victor Hanson, who wrote the book Fields without Dreams when he said, “ there’s a lot of money to be made in agriculture as long as you don’t just grow food.”  Or perhaps, it was the time that Gordon, in sole charge of milking 130 cows, fell asleep while the milking machines continued their relentless work.  Only to be awoken later by a very upset father that convinced Gordon a life beyond the farm awaited him.  At any rate, Gordon moved up the food chain of agriculture, from growing food, to the very top as an agricultural economist where bad economic times only means your services are even more in the demand.

It is my pleasure to introduce the Chancellor of the Berkeley campus, Robert Berdahl. In another life we worked closely together during the formation of the Big 12 conference to compel the University of Nebraska to raise its admissions standards for football players.  After that myriad, problems at Berkeley should be almost routine.  Chancellor Berdahl..

Chancellor Berdahl

Well, Thank you very much Rod.  I was told by Rod that you had a long program and that my role here tonight was to add dignity to it.  So I’ll try to do that. I don’t really have any prepared remarks tonight.  I was told that this would be a dinner of Gordon’s friends and so I expected a very small gathering and didn’t prepare much in the way of remark.  As Ann Richards used to say in Texas, “Gordon, how did you do it?”   All these folks who have turned out tonight, I look at the program and I am sort of staggered by the number of people who are going to be presenting and I have concluded that it does go with colleges of Agriculture.  Reg Gomes, who is here tonight will remember, I think quite vividly, I was Provost at Illinois and had the pleasure of appointing Reg Gomes as Dean of Agriculture there. And the College of Agriculture at Illinois always had this annual banquet that began as typical at Illinois, quite early, 5:30 in the evening. And at 9:30, I remember sitting at the table and saying to Reg, “I’m gonna cut your budget $10,000 for every minute beyond 9:30 that this goes.” And he got up at 20 to 10:00 and I said, “You are down $200,000 and counting, be brief.”  So I will follow that admonition.  It is really a great pleasure to honor Gordon tonight.  And I know that you all know him as a quiet, modest, self-effacing, non-confrontational, non-controversial kind of figure.  Not all of us in administration know him in exactly the same light.  But he has meant a lot to Berkeley, I have to confess.  He came here in 1979 as a professor. He became Dean in 1994, and has, I think, been a remarkable innovator, leader in building this great College of Natural Resources.  We’re in the process, as you know, of interviewing candidates to succeed Gordon.  And I would say Gordon, given the number of people who turned out tonight, you might want to reconsider actually.  But I think the true test of an administrator at a university is whether or not distinguished people around the country see succeeding that person as an opportunity to continue leadership and contributions that have made a college into a great place.  And judging by the view of people that we have met from around the United States, looking from the outside at this college, I think that you all as great supporters of this college, and Gordon as the Dean, can be inordinately proud of where this college has moved in the last 6 years.  Because they all, to a person, say this is a college that is on the move. This is a college that has a brilliant future and Gordon, it is due to you and we are extraordinarily grateful to you.  Thank you.

Rod Park:

Thank you, Chancellor.  Our next speaker is Ted Briggs, past Chair of the CNR Advisory Board.  When I met Ted, I didn’t realize our paths had crossed before.  Though we had not met, we are both members of the Harvard class of 1953.  Since then Ted has proved that an intellectual History major at Harvard is well-equipped to be the CEO of a large corporation.  A source of delight to any graduate of a College of Letters and Science.  Ted Briggs

Ted Briggs:

Well, I can tell you one thing Gordon: you sure as heck have a lot of relatives.  But, I would like to give Gordon a big gift from the Advisory Board.  Is that okay, Jim?  Good.  And I think this is very appropriate of a gift because everybody knows that being a Dean at Berkeley is a real cushy job.  But this is a dart board.  And Gordon’s picture is on this and this up here says “bad press,” “pie-throwing,” it’s something he shares with the Chancellor, perhaps. “Useless meetings,” “unhappy faculty,” “budget cuts,” and we’re back to “bad press” again.  At any rate Gordon, this is for your family room, and all faculty are all invited to that room to throw a dart or two.

Having said all of that, in all seriousness, what Gordon has done is he put together an Advisory Board that was articulate, aggressive and experienced in a very broad base.  And he listened to our criticisms at times and it was interesting because we would have a discussion of water usage between PG&E, the Sierra Club and a cotton farmer.  And if you think that wasn’t an alive discussion, then you just don’t know what’s going on in the area of natural resources.  At any rate, take budget cuts for example. Gordon added 20 new faculty.  He wouldn’t stop.  He’s very aggressive.  He’s a gutsy man, we all know that.  And from the point of  view of the Advisory Board, it was a thrill working with a man of this type of leadership.  And I can truly say, that the man is a born leader, but on top of this he has guts. He put his job on the line on a continuous basis for his faculty, for his students, for the administration. And as the Chancellor said, the College of Natural Resources is the what it is and is now.  And one thing that we had on the Advisory Board that we wanted this to be— we wanted it to be the “go to place.” The media regulators, the government experts and people would think of the College of Natural Resources as the “go to place” if you want to know something about biological research and specialties.  It’s a world class organization with a world-class group of people.  And that’s what we have and that’s what all of us has worked toward under Gordon’s leadership.  And Gordy, I’ll tell you one thing. I speak personally and for the Board, you have our respect and admiration and as they say on the street, “You the man.”

Rod Park

Thank you Ted. Some of you may not know that Gordon was a very successful amateur boxer.  He started at age 15, he lost only one bout and by age 17 he won the Golden Gloves thing in Sacramento.  And a number of entrepreneurs wanted him to become their boxer and go out and make a lot of money for them as well as himself.  He refused to do that and went to college instead.  But, hell of a good preparation for becoming a Dean, I’ll tell you that much. Our next speaker is Peggy Lemaux.  She is the only Cooperative Extension Specialist involved in biotechnology in California and has been very active in representing the College.  Peggy.

Peggy Lemaux

Okay.  Hi. I have to have some fortification here.  And you’ll soon understand why.  This was supposed to be a duo tonight.  I was supposed to be joined by Bob Buchanan who certainly sends his apologies for not being here, but I am going to try to represent us both.  You will understand later that I was really in need of a thespian and this is Bob’s little thing that he does on the side, so he convinced me early on we should do this. And now he’s not here, so we’ll see how it goes.

I arrived at UC Berkeley in 1991 and shortly after that time, Willi Grusseim who was our department chair at the time, approached me and asked me if I would be involved in an industrial advisory board.  And that was kind of a bold move for our department at that time, but we felt that this was a good idea to give us some exposure to the private sector, to give our students some exposure to the private sector and maybe look for a few little funds here and there.  We formed the Advisory Board and it was quite successful in getting feedback from industry.  We got a lot of feedback on things that we might try, but after 3 years of suggesting that they might want to put a little money into the department to fund graduate students, to help our graduate student program, we really came up empty.  And I remember that Bob and Willi and I sort of went over to Gordon’s office to kind of share the frustration of having met with these people over and over again and having dropped all these subtle hints, and nothing happened.  And Gordon said, “ Look, you know you’ve got to look for a bold way to go here. Look for complementarities, and you know, you do the selling. You go out and talk to private industry and present them with opportunities, complementarities that you have with what they have.”  And so this is what was the beginning of what Willi and Bob and I fondly called “the road show.”  “The road show” was a group, the four of us, who went out to visit the various companies and meet with their scientists and their executive officers.  And you know,  we were looking for complementarities and to try to find a relationship with one of these companies. And at the time we went, although in retrospect we can feel pretty good about it, we weren’t all so sure about how this was all going to go. So this is where we pick up the story.

Four folks from the Bay Area, arrive in frigid Iowa. Bob says, “My God, its 20 below zero.”  I look up at the bank thermometer, it’s 20 above zero.  I think this probably kind of reflected how we all felt at that time.  So, we get in the car, go to our hotel, in Johnson City, which is just down the road from Pioneer Hybrid. And we’re all standing in the hotel lobby sharing our insecurities about how things were going to go the next day and I think that, as biologists, we weren’t really sure about this new thing we were going to try, sort of to go out and sell ourselves as a department. But, you know, Gordon was an economist, and he felt pretty sure of himself, so he said, “ Hey guys, let’s go out for a drink and talk about all this.”  And this is where we pick it up.

So, we got Gordon, we got a bartender that we’ll meet pretty soon and then we have Bob, Willi and Peggy. Okay.  Gordon says, “How about we go out for a drink?”  “Hey man, that sounds great to us!”  “Okay,” Gordon says, “How about if we just go to the bar in the hotel lobby?”  I said, “Mmmp, the basketball game’s over, the bar’s closed.”  Okay, so Gordon says, “Let’s get into the car, we’ll surely find someone in Des Moines that’s open at this hour.”  So we set out, thirty minutes later, three bars later, closed. The basketball game’s over. We see a bar with a light on.  I go up to the window and I look in and I see the bartender on the phone.  “Hey, Suess, thing’s are really dragging here and I’m cleaning up, should be over in about 15 minutes.  Oh no, I see four people coming in the door.  Well, maybe they’ll decide not to stay… Good evening sir, can I help you?”  “Ah yes, my colleagues and I would like some drinks, could you provide us with a wine list?”  “Oh, a wine list, that won’t really be necessary sir.” “Oh really. Why’s that?  You know all the selections by heart?”  “Uh, the selections sir, yes I do.  We have white and we have red.. .Which would you like?”  “White and red?”  “Oh, yes sir, we have white and red, and I could probably mix you up a nice rosette here, if you’d like that.”  “A rosette? Um. I think we’ll skip the wine. How about 4 drafts?”  Okay, well that little scene was very important to me because it said that Gordon really was a leader.  I mean, he could step in when we were indecisive and he could make decisions for all of us that were fairly good.

And indeed, he was a good leader. And indeed we did go forward. And I think that for me, personally, our efforts were successful beyond my expectations, probably again because I was a biologist and not an economist. I have learned a lot from Gordon in that arena.  And I think we’ve embarked on what I think is a very bold experiment.  We don’t know how it’s going to turn out. But I think I would like to take this opportunity to propose a toast and to thank Gordon for his leadership in this endeavor in both very little ways and very big ways.  So thanks a lot, Gordon.  And I’ll just leave the wine up here for anybody else who needs it.

Rod Park

Thank you, Peggy.  Now Gordon has received a number of congratulatory letters from his students, colleagues and friends which would be a bit long to read in their entirety, so I will briefly quote from these between our speakers.  The first quote is from Professor Brian Wright.  “The qualities that made Gordon so successful as dean were qualities that helped influence me to come to Berkeley when he recruited me as chair.  With Gordon we all know we had better be the best and then better.  We had better be good enough to know the best when we see it.  This was, and still is a refreshing change from the attitudes of some lesser schools I have known.”

We will now hear from two of Gordon’s former students, now both assistant professors.  Rachael Goodhue from Davis and Jill McCluskey from Washington State

Rachael and Jill


Well in preparation for tonight, I called a few of Gordon’s former graduate students and their response pretty much summed up the way we all feel— that we were all very lucky to be mentored by such a brilliant scholar.  I asked for appropriate stories ,with appropriate emphasized, and that was a little bit hard to find.  Every former graduate student seems to have a story about Gordon and they become, turned into an urban legend.  Early in his career, we’ll get back to this, Gordon was never one to waste time. And I was told by one of his former students that when Gordon was a young professor at UC Davis, he would sometimes write on the chalkboard with both hands simultaneously in order to be more efficient.  So it’s like drinking from a fire hose.  I know that Gordon really values research and he really values working with graduate students in order to produce high quality research.  I don’t know how he does it. I think he just doesn’t sleep.  However, he does maximize the use of his time.

I talked to another one of his students, Harry de Gorter, and Harry told me that one time he was supposed to meet with Gordon. And Gordon, on a Friday afternoon,  Gordon said, “Walk with me.”  And so he followed Gordon down the hall to the men’s room and Gordon used the facilities and kept discussing the research project. And the entire time afterwards, Harry thought, “What have I done?”  So then the next week when Harry came to his meeting with Gordon, Gordon said, “walk with me” and Harry said, “No.”  He refused.  This did not seem like a big deal to me because I know both Rachel and I have followed Gordon to the restroom before, but neither of us had actually followed him inside, we’re proud to say. But actually, Rachel and I like to joke that that we were both at a distinct disadvantage because all of the important meetings went on in the men’s room.

But writing a dissertation under Gordon was not the easiest way to get a Ph.D.  He’s very observant and notices every detail, so you can’t get away with anything. I had a baby during my third year of graduate school and I was about 3 months pregnant and I hadn’t told anyone yet. And maybe I’d gained 5 pounds. And I was talking to one of my friends and Gordon looked over at me and ran into a wall.  And he’s always usually so composed. And then during my meeting with him I said, “Guess what?” And he said, “You’re pregnant.”  And the funny thing is that I had to actually point out that I was pregnant to another faculty member when I was 8 months pregnant.

I’m always amazed that Gordon is able to juggle the amount of work that he does.  He is very hard working. It would exhaust I always thought, the efforts of 3 normal faculty members.  And he was also always able to keep track of when I was supposed to meet with him. He would, I would run into him in the hallway, and he’d say, “Shouldn’t we have an appointment soon?”  And I was just amazed that he was accurate about that. So you could never slack off because Gordon would always notice.

I also called Klaas Van’t Veld, another one of his former graduate students who’s now at Michigan. And Klaas said that Gordon had a special talent for flipping through a paper that he just gave him and always finding the one paragraph that he was not sure of, that he was worried about.  And he always made us work hard, even as a first year student. Alan Love told me that Gordon made him work building a big econometric model working 25-30 hours a week even when the other first year students were just working on their classes.  Rachel, I think you have a few.


An award winning econometric model, by the way


Yeah, Yeah, definitely.


If I recall correctly, Jill’s right.  You can’t put anything over on Gordon. I’m sure we’ve shared that experience with a lot of you in this room.  So for a while we called him the Chief Warden of the Women’s Penitentiary because we were in an all female office and three of us had Gordon as our advisors. One of still has, so Tamara had nothing to do with this.


She hasn’t been paroled yet. She got her.


And Gordon was afraid we’d talked about it.  And I don’t know why he’d think that and so of course we denied everything.  But you know, we were doing a little coordination, here and there. We always kept our door shut so no one would hear. But I knew we’d gone too far, the day I was the last one to go in for a meeting. He puts down something I’d given to him, he looks at me over his desk and he says, “You’re trying to manage me, aren’t you?”  Yea, never did that again.

You know, he’s a wonderful mentor. I consider him still a mentor, I think we all do.  Jill and I and Harry and everyone else and leader, learning a lot from him.  And working with him is a little bit like working with a rock star because you go to a professional meeting and people say, “Gordon Rausser, what’s he really like?”  But, that’s not all there is to Gordon, which I’m sure you all know too.

He’s also very kind, very thoughtful. He knows us, tracks us in good ways, as well as bad; personal things as well as business things. And I think that best summarized, he’s just like my mother.  And I’ve got evidence, you know, being an economist and trained by Gordon, I need a little bit of evidence. And when I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years, I told them both my sad tale. Both nodded sympathetically and said, “Well, at least now you’ll have more time to work.”


Well, both of our experiences with Gordon have been exceptional with having him as our mentor. He is just so knowledgeable about so many areas and economics and statistics and he has a special talent for figuring out what will be important in the future.  We’re just, we just feel very lucky that his, that he remained very active in, and put research in working with graduate students as a priority when he served as Dean.  Thank you Gordon

Rod Park

Thank you Rachael and Jill.  The next quote is from Professor Douglas Irwin at Dartmouth.  Just take one statement out of his long congratulatory letter.  “Working with you was particularly delightful.  Because of your infectious laugh and sense of humor, and the 1987 Economic Report of the President, that was President Ronald Reagan, we crafted the following line that agriculture subsidies were: ‘in short, toweringly expensive.’ A direct poke at the diminutive Senator John Tower, a staunch advocate of such Federal subsidies.  I doubt that many readers noticed all the puns and other amusements that we took delight in putting in the chapter.  But we had tremendous fun in the process. I do recall however, that your first draft of the chapter was in desperate need of pruning and was nearly as long as the entire final report.  I hope you still have a copy of the Mammoth draft that was presented to you as an anchor wrapped in chains at the party celebrating the publication of the report.”

We will now hear from Professor Emeritus George Judge.

George Judge

Thank you very much.  It’s certainly a pleasure to follow Rachael and Jill and I do have news for them. You can put something over on Gordon.  And I think I’ve done it for the last 30 years.  But anyway, I want to say up front, I’m a friend of Gordon’s and I thought that would be humorous.  But in some sense I want to tell it as I think it is. And perhaps you’ll find that a bit humorous as we go along.  I want to add my congratulations to Gordon for surviving the mindfill called the Deanship.  And now I hope he’ll put that administrative foolishness behind him, and return to full time basis on doing economics and maybe more importantly, econometrics, where the real action is.

When I think of Gordon, and in kind of response to Chancellor Berdahl, I think of this bright, brash, intelligent student and then young faculty member that I met in 1969-70 when I was visiting at Berkeley and went to Davis to give a seminar.  And during this visit, Gordon and his shadow, Stan Johnson, kept pestering me. And I recognized that I was dealing with an original and who had a really great thirst and a capacity for knowledge.  He was just the kind of person that you wish would stick their head in your office door and say, “Hey, could I work with you on a research problem?” And to get the picture of Gordon, you need to know something about the state of economics and econometrics around the late 60’s and the early 1970’s. It was a great time to throw down the econometric gauntlet.  We had a good underpinning of economic theory and of the theory of econometrics. Havemow (?) had just developed a probability approach to economics.  Wald (?) had just introduced us to decision theoretic procedures and changed the face of statistics.  Venorman (?) had introduced us to game-theory and there were lots of new optimization procedures out there that let us look at old problems in a very new way.  And we had exhumed (?) the body of Reverend Bayes(?) and we had both the sampling theory and a Beigian (?) approach to inference.  Now given this conceptual playing field, Gordon was like a kid in a candy store.  And you can almost hear him saying, “I’ll have some of that, some of that and some of that.”

Or another vision that you might want to think about, think about him walking along the econometric lake, looking for that, that rock that he could pick up and make the biggest splash.  And a splash, he did make.  And as usual, he did it in his way. He didn’t make the mistake that many make in thinking of economics and econometrics as a bag of tricks. He had the insight to look for the linkages and how he could use them to his advantage in terms of research and teaching.  As a result, a steady stream of articles and books started to appear, along with a steady stream of new Ph.Ds that were eagerly sought by good departments both here and abroad.

And during the 70’s he sampled quite a few universities to the east, he went to the University of Chicago, even came to Illinois where I was located at the time, at Iowa State and finally ended up at a small college on the east called, Harvard. And then fortunately came home to Berkeley and to ARE.  And it was a perfect fit, because Berkeley needed Gordon and I think Gordon needed Berkeley. In typical fashion, after coming to Berkeley, he wanted to take whatever he was working with and to make it better. He also knew that great departments are made up of people that are number one in their field.  With these objectives, he set off to find the brightest and the best, and the rest is history.  He found the brightest and the best.  And ARE went on to be the top of the charts and stayed there ever since.  That Gordon is returning full time to ARE is great news to me.  And I even dream, one of these days, he might stick as if this young fellow, that I didn’t get to work with earlier, might stick his head in the door and say, “Hey do you want to work with me on a hard problem?”

But finally, I’d like to make a prediction.  And although Gordon’s accomplishments over the three decades are by any standard, nothing short of fantastic, I predict the best is yet to come.

Rod Park

Thank you, Professor Judge. I now have  quote from Professor Cleave Willis of the University of Massachusetts, in a somewhat lighter vein of reminiscence.  “Gordon was a satisfactory doctoral student at UC Davis, in fact, so satisfactory that in order to prompt him to take his comprehensive oral examination seriously, I assume, the examining committee was composed of the brightest faculty available.  They trucked in an eminent economist from UC Berkeley and that included Henry Won (?) then economics at UC Davis.  Oh yes! His second child was born the night before his oral exam at home on the couch.  And very much not planned that way. He slept little that night. The examination the next day was underway with Henry Won asking questions. All was well until Henry threw an easy fast ball over the center of the plate. Gordon couldn’t answer it and asked for a repeat. The same pitch came in and again, he didn’t understand or had never heard of the literature in that subject.  Finally another member of the committee asked Gordon incredulously, “You have never heard of the Puddy-Clay model?”  Apparently in his state of fatigue, all Gordon heard was reference to something like the “Putton-Date model.”  Gordon passed the exam.

We will now here from Professors Rich Gilbert and Tom Jorde, who are co-founders along with Gordon, of LECG, the Law and Economics Consulting Group which if you look on the New York Stock Exchange, no longer exists.  It’s been bought and sold three or four times, I guess.  And so now instead of  “what color is your parachute,” we ask, “what color is your stock?”

Richard Gilbert and Thomas Jorde


Well, it’s a great pleasure to be here and to honor Gordon for his many contributions to the University.  It’s also a great honor to have Gordon with us here this evening, because in case you don’t know, Gordon is an NFL football fan, and this is Monday night.  And Gordon, I’m surprised we were able to tear you away from your usual Monday activity, what he has been known to do and do everything else at the same time.  Now I’ve known Gordon for many years, he’s very tough as we know, we know his experience as a fighter. He’s brilliant. He’s amazingly energetic.  There’s also a soft side to Gordon as well. I’ve had the pleasure, we’ve had the pleasure together, here with Tom, of knowing his wonderful family, his kids who are now young adults, Paige and Stephanie and Sloan, and know Arial as well.  And then you see Gordon with his five grandchildren and it’s quite a sight. I must say it’s quite a sight, I think Gordon is going to figure out a way to write some sort of paper on the economics of grandchildren. That I think is going to be his next research task.

Now I am going to share some experience. I am not from the College of Natural Resources. I dwell in a little corner of the University called the Economics Department and we don’t have to deal with problems like whether or not we should accept $25 million grants over there, because no one has offered, frankly.  Now, but I did experience Gordon’s amazing skill in the University, about a dozen years ago and they were not the greatest of times for the Economics Department. We were losing faculty, we were slipping in the ratings, we were trying to get more attention from the administration. We thought about going on a hunger strike until we realized that meant going without lunch and dinner.  And then the Chancellor started, he created a Blue Ribbon Committee, with Gordon in charge of this committee. And it was really very, very  impressive what happened from then on. He recognized that this was a University challenge to build the Economics Department.  It had always been a very outstanding department and it was going through a period of time. And he recognized that this was the time to build it up and he made it happen. He also focused his energy on getting the economics community to work together in a way that has energized, I think the entire campus.  It was really extraordinary what he did. Now we are back up on the ratings, I’m glad to say, just approaching the Agricultural and Natural Resources group.  But we’re almost there.  We are, our student ratio, faculty ratio are creeping up though. And so Gordon, if you have a little free time and you want to do a little free lance work, there’s a place for you over in the Economics Department.  So just let me say, Gordon, on behalf of one small corner of the University, we are very, very grateful to you for all of your contributions as a teacher, as a scholar and as a great administrator and dean. Thank you


Gordon, it’s my privilege also this evening before saying a few remarks of my own to read a letter from a good friend of ours and yours, now in New Zealand, our colleague David Teece, who wanted very much to be here this evening and instead writes: “Gordon, I’m truly sorry I cannot be here this evening to salute you. Gordon has few equals as scholar, entrepreneur, and visionary Dean. The University has benefited enormously from his service.  I know that Gordon holds the values and purposes of the University close to his heart.   He has helped it in many new ways and moved it into important territory, especially with respect to University industry cooperation. It is most fitting Gordon that you should be honored tonight with a scholarship fund in your name, to which I, as well as others, of course, am delighted to contribute.  From David.”

When I was asked to say a few words this evening and also to be brief,  I tried to narrow down the qualities that I might focus on in thinking about my long time friend, Gordon Rausser. And I’ve come up with three to share with you.  The first, I think we’ve all experienced.  And that’s simply the staggering, raw, intellectual horse power.  You all know what I’m talking about. Everyone in this room knows exactly what I’m talking about.  When you’re in his presence, and you watch his mind work, its just a wonderful thing to behold. He’s so fast. The creative solutions that come forth are just absolutely amazing no matter what the context is.  And then finally many of us here, have the opportunity to realize what a gifted writer he is, as well.  Many of you have spoken tonight, and thinking about this raw horse power about the breadth of subject areas that he deals with.  And it really is staggering. If any of you might doubt for a moment, the kind of horse power that I’m talking about, I decided, as a lawyer, it might be appropriate to bring in some physical evidence. I have in my hand, Gordon Rausser’s academic vitae.  Now, I’m going to try to show it so that you can appreciate what it is. I am holding in my hand, 50 pages of raw horse power, single spaced.  Not only that, but it weighs in now, 50 pages later, at 8.5 ounces.  And I suggest this may be a new measure of the man.

The second quality I’d like to focus on ever briefly is Gordon’s incredible competitiveness.  We’ve seen that, you know, there is no part of Gordon’s DNA that understands coming in 2nd place.  This is not a person who likes to lose. And when you marry that with brilliance, we’ve all been in this room, enormous beneficiaries, whether as partners, colleagues, or the university.  And finally as a third quality, I’d just like to  comment, in a way picking up a theme that Rich mentioned, about Gordon’s devotion.  Extraordinary devotion to family, as witnessed by this wonderful outpouring of the entire family group here.  But that devotion extends as well to colleagues, to staff and to students, you’ve heard so many wonderful examples about already.  Finally, it extends to the University.  And here we’re all deeply appreciative.  Gordon, your love for the University has been so demonstrable in many, many ways.  And I think tonight, it’s our chance to show you that that love is returned just as deeply.

Rod Park

Thank you Rich and Tom.  Next is a short quote from a letter I received today from Dean Sharon Fleming, just to send says, “Gordon, your vision, creativity, courage and drive have been essential to the legacy you leave behind.  The college, this university, and universities everywhere, have been changed forever as a result of you.  I hope you are as proud of your accomplishments as I am of having played a small part.”

Now, all of us who work in institutions, unless, you’re a regent, have a boss.  Our next speaker is Reg Gomes, Vice President, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Reg Gomes

And my boss is with me here tonight.  I truly appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this group tonight though I may not truly fit in. Something of an outsider, 5 years ago, I had no idea who Gordon Rausser was.  But what I’d like to do tonight, if I’d might, is offer two brief comments about the campus, talk about relationships beyond the campus.  The first comment about the campus is that I couldn’t understand, initially, why Gordon would leave the position of Dean.  But, I’d been a Dean under Bob Berdahl.  And I have to tell you about Bob’s arithmetic.  He learned it at one of the 11 universities that comprise the Big 10 Conference.  And so there’s a degree of exaggeration in everything you’ll hear from him.

When I came here, back to California, some 4 years plus ago, I was told that I would have the opportunity to interact with a Council of Deans and Directors, and then from this group, that comprised people from my office in the Office of the President, from the Berkeley campus, the Davis campus, the Riverside campus and the Regents.  I was told that I had two choices, I could have a striped shirt and a whistle or a bullet proof vest.   I think it is not unfair to say that 5 years ago plus, the relationships between the division of Agricultural and Natural Resources and the College of Natural Resources on the Berkeley campus were not the best that they might be.  And yet, when I came into this job, I found Gordon Rausser ready to hand me the olive branch, some suggested it was poison ivy, and to work with me on a number of issues.  I can say that he gave me marvelous advice, and listened to mine.  A specific example, my first Spring here, he invited me to speak at graduation for the College of Natural Resources.  And I told the graduates, one of the things you need to do in your life, is always associate with people smarter than you.  Gordon didn’t talk to me for 6 months.

In the programs that we developed, that we worked together on, Gordon brought ideas.  He brought passion and I think that’ll be a surprise to none of you. He brought confrontation, aggressiveness, but frankly, those of us who grew up in San Jaoquin Valley milking cows, know what happens when you fall asleep at the job.  In the vernacular, you get the stool kicked out from under you.  So when Gordon began to make it clear that he was going to stick to this commitment to spend only one term as Dean of the College of Natural Resources, I did what I could.  I invited him to lunch. I twisted his arm out of the socket. I paid for his lunch and I didn’t charge it to his 3.3% pool.  A little bit of an inside story here, I offered to buy him a barrel of ink.  But, I can only say that the time that we have spent with Gordon, on the level of the entire system,  fits very well.

A quote that was told to me today second-hand, from an Emeritus professor at Berkeley.  The quote, and I paraphrase was, when Gordon Rausser became Dean, I wasn’t at all sure that that was a good choice. In retrospect, I think he’s the best Dean this campus has ever had.  And I can only say that for Gordon to put together a group with this quality and magnitude to help celebrate my birthday, I appreciate.

Rod Park

Thank you Vice President Gomes.  Our next speakers are two of Gordon’s colleagues, Professor Barbara Allen-Diaz and Rick Standiford, Associate Dean of Forestry.

Rick Standiford and Barbara Allen-Diaz

Rick Standiford

Well, it’s very nice to be here, I’m Rick Standiford..

Barbara Allen-Diaz

And I’m Barbara.  Well, that’s a start..  Okay Rick

Rick Standiford

We were going to alternate words in our speeches here to be really different, but we’re not going to do it that way.  Very big honor to be here tonight.  Gordon, congratulations on a great evening.  Both Barbara and I had the privilege of being on the original search committee that brought Gordon to the campus.  And as a member of the search committee, I had a couple of things I was really interested in.  First of all, my background is in Forestry. I was part of what had been the Department of Forestry in Resource Management.  I was very interested in Forestry in the campus, the long traditions and the history of excellence that we had had on the campus. So I was very interested in that topic.  The other thing is that I’m a Cooperative Extension Specialist, so I was very interested in service to California agriculture, service to farmers, service to the citizens of the state.  So those were the two things I really probed Gordon at.  And he claims I didn’t support him.  He told me that just the other day.  He said, “You really didn’t support me, did you Rick?”  But actually I did.  And my secret ballot will bear that out.

But in the forestry area, Berkeley has had a history of forestry program going back to 1916. It’s a long storied history, many of the greatest forestry leaders in the country have come from the Berkeley campus.  After a program review that was somewhat negative, after reorganization where the forestry didn’t appear anywhere on the campus, there were a lot of concerns about whether Berkeley was going to even continue in this area.  And I have to hand it to Gordon, his principles of excellence, of being the best, of working hard to exploit areas of where we had comparative advantage, really paid off in the forestry area.  He took the leadership and formed an Associate Dean for Forestry, Keith Gillis was appointed the first Associate Dean for Forestry, set up a Center for Forestry.  And now we’ve gone from a relatively small department where we also had people that worked in forestry in other parts of the campus, to really being a college-wide activity that involves people from all over the campus, all over the college, all of DANR and I commend Gordon for his foresight in putting that together.

The other area that was really important to me was Cooperative Extension and service to citizens of California.  And when I found out Gordon was from a dairy background and all, I knew that he probably knew something about Cooperative Extension and the Ag. Experiment Station in the mission to agricultural.  And that certainly has borne out to be very true.  During Gordon’s leadership as Dean, Cooperative Extension went from being what might be characterized as a poor step-child, to being a fully integrated part of the college.  And I’m very excited about the last five years in the college, where now every department takes extremely seriously its role in cooperative extension and service and all academic planning exercises involve equally cooperative extension, as well as teaching and research.  And the commitment to excellence and bringing in the very best people, the recent hires we’ve had in cooperative extension are among the best hires we’ve had anywhere on the campus. We’ve brought in very bright people that are leaders in their field. It doesn’t matter that they’re in extension, they’re still the best and the brightest and Gordon’s commitment to excellence has really carried forward in that area as well.

Gordon’s a tough person, a tough negotiator, I’ve sat down with him, in fact I sat down with him today and we talked about our budget, in fact I should have waited until tomorrow maybe to do that.  But you always know when you work with Gordon, because he asks really hard questions, he expects answers to his questions, he expects results and he carries through on his word and I really appreciate that.  Now it’s my transition to Barbara here.  Gordon is a risk taker.  And he’s taken many risks.  Barbara, how has Gordon taken risks here?

Barbara Allen-Diaz

Well I just want to give you one example of the kind of person Gordon is.  And an example of his risk taking is the Forestry and Resource Management Department, which I was also a member, had been recently reorganized and combined with a number of other departments, four other departments.  So that five groups of faculty that had not coexisted together were brought together under the acronym ESPM, not N, M, okay?  Environmental Science, Policy and Management. And at that same time we then had been reorganized into this group in 1992, here comes Gordon. Not even three years later and he wants to reorganize us again.  And not only does he want to reorganize us again, but he wants us to take a $400,000 budget cut.  And figure out how we’re going to operate under that kind of scenario.  And you know what?  It worked.  And it’s better.  And ESPM is a better department, and better organized because Gordon was willing to take a risk and work with us faculty to make this happen.

He’s the kind of person, as you know, that kind of has a tough take no prisoners approach to the way he deals with people and yet he still believes in shared governments, and collegiality.  And it’s that kind of attitude that was able to make us successful in becoming the strong department that we are.  And Gordon has a vision. He has a vision for the college. He’s implemented that vision through a whole number of us faculty and extension folks that believe that what we do in our mission oriented kinds of research, based on fundamental kinds of research that has an application to agricultural natural resources in this state and made us be able to bring our work to the fore front in a manner that has allowed us to all work together.  So, I’d like to say Gordon, thanks for your vision of excellence because it’s been a great place to work the last five years. Thanks

Rod Park

Thank you Barbara and Rick.  Now a short quote from Dean Tony Adams of Optometry, my favorite letter.  Because it’s very short, I’ll read it to you in its entirety.  “A man of courage, creativity, controversy and commendable risk taking style.  An interesting and stimulating professional colleague, optometry had more in common with natural resources than I had guessed.”  Signed Tony Adams.
All successful administrators are dependent on strong staff backup.  Our next speaker, Nancy Lewis Assistant Dean provided that support.

Nancy Lewis

Thank you Rod for the promotion.  It’s amazing how time flies.  In the 3 years I’ve been Gordon’s assistant, I’ve had quite an education even though it hasn’t come with a university degree. You all know Gordon’s intelligence, commitment and tenacity.  But some of you may not know that he is incredibly sensitive, generous and funny.  Sensitive – when I’m having a really, really bad day, thanks to him, he senses it.  And generous in providing me and my friends with his Sonoma home for a weekend in celebration of my recent birthday.  And funny, when he discovered my age, he said. “I never would have hired you if I knew you were that old!”

Believe me, my position is not easy. I’ve never had to move so fast, juggle so much, or concentrate so hard before in my life. And that’s just to keep up with a very small part of what Gordon does.  Most of you have heard Gordon talk about the importance of openness and transparency.  For me, that means that every mistake I make instantly becomes open and transparent. Gordon never hesitates to tell me exactly what I’ve done wrong.  On the other hand, when projects go well, he never fails to express his appreciation.  In short, working with him is demanding, challenging and rewarding.  And in that spirit of openness and transparency, I have to admit that I’ve made a major mistake.  I’ve discovered a very important email that Gordon dictated some time ago that I failed to send. Since many of the recipients are here tonight, I’ll read it to you now.  “To CNR faculty, students and staff:  It has come to my attention that many of you are working much too hard.  Campus police have notified me that on numerous occasions late at night, lights are seen on in all CNR buildings.  Let’s get our priorities straight. Life is too short. I hereby direct all of you to take the next week off and relax. The margaritas are on me.  Signed Gordon Rausser.”

Now that I’ve delivered that message, I’d like to pay tribute to Gordon on behalf of the CNR staff.  You may be surprised to know that Gordon’s daily calendar holds 3 entries for each 10 minute period.  In other words, Gordon does 3 things at once.  For example, 11:10-11:20 a.m.:  1) conference call with the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost; 2) Review graduate student’s dissertation; 3) race to the bathroom.  Actually the Business School performed a motion study and determined that Gordon is exactly 60 times more productive than the average person.  The staff used this calculation in preparing our gift for Gordon.  Some of you can see that this clock has three faces. The first is set on Greenwich Mean Time in case there’s any interesting trading happening in London. The second is set for Pacific Standard Time because it’s always handy to know exactly what time people around you think it is.  And the third is set for Gordon Rausser Time which means that the hands move exactly 60 times faster than any other clock.  Since it’s been said that I run the Dean, Gordon your presence is requested on the podium please.  I present this clock to you on behalf of your awe struck CNR staff with the wish that time manages to keep up with you.

Rod Park

Thank you Nancy and the staff of CNR.  Our next reminiscer  is an old friend and colleague of Gordon’s.  Stan Johnson is Vice President for Extension at Iowa State University.

Stan Johnson

You’ll have to excuse me, I kind of thought this was a meeting of the Iowa Corn Growers.  And I was lost.  But it’s great to be here.  I have a few things to tell you about Gordon that only can be told by someone who’s known him for a long time. When I wrote this speech, which I’m not going to read, which will please all of you.  It started out with the line that we had grown up together.  One of my colleagues read it and said, “Maybe this is kind of a strong phrase for both of you. Perhaps you could start by saying you’ve known each other a long time, personally and professionally.  And this won’t call attention to the rough edges that the both of you seem to have.”

Well I first met Gordon in 1969.  And I would like to report on the first conversation we had.  I was a visiting professor at the University of California at Davis. By the way, that’s a small school, just a little bit to the east of here.  And it was, my first day in the office, and I went to the coffee room and sat down because I thought I would meet some of the faculty there.  And I was confronted by this very officious fellow who asked me, “What are you doing here?”  It turned out to be Gordon Rausser, the newly appointed adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of California at Davis who informed me that only faculty could be in this room and invited me to leave.  And it was at that point that I knew that he was destined for administration. A person who had a such a natural way to exhibit his authority, was really impressive to me.

Actually we had a great career together.  We’d worked together for 30 years and we’ve done many things.  Writing papers, doing things like preparing the first and only publicly available information on the Geargary(?) Round of the GAT agreement.  And done books and many other things that were great fun.  He did invite me to, early on join him in his venture with LECG which I understand is a very successful consulting firm.  I declined with my great wisdom.  Anyway, it’s been a great opportunity to work with him and I can go on about the things we’ve done together, but maybe I should tell you some things that you wouldn’t know by reading the journals.  For example, I recall an occasion early in our lives, when we were consulting for the Agriculture Canada on their information and policy analysis system.  And it was the end of a pretty tough day where we had been critical of what had been done.  And one of our Canadian friends said to us, “you know, if you guys keep pushing us like this, we’re not gonna like you.”  And without one instant of pause, Gordon says, “You know frankly, we don’t give a damn whether you like us or not.  We care about whether you think we’re good economists or not. We didn’t come up here to make friends.”  And this sort of sensitive and compassionate way about him has really characterized him throughout his life. He’s a person who goes to the real issues and doesn’t spend a lot of time fluffing around on things that are unimportant.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Gordon is the fact that he’s a person, as you’ve heard, who has the capacity to do many things at the same time. As we often say, “a person who could have many balls in the air at the same time.”  In fact I was gonna use this metaphor but I got to thinking that quite often they were my own balls that he had in the air.  And I suspect other of you could share this with me.

I can’t comment on his contributions to the College of Agriculture or the College of Natural Resources here, but it’s very clear that what’s going on here is setting a tone for the administration, of not only agricultural colleges but other colleges in the United States. One thing I can say is that it has made the Chronicle of Higher Education probably only the second most boring thing that I read.  Thank you Gordon for making a few stories there.

Gordon’s research, which has been spoken about is really an important part of his life, and will, has been and will be in the future.  And I knew this direction at an early stage. We were both doing econometrics thirty years ago and one of the themes of econometrics that we did was to try to include the information from the theory in the models that we developed.  And that led to thinking about why policies are the way that they are for this country and for other countries. And Gordon was the person that pressed this issues very, very hard. And in fact I think his most important research contributions have to do with why what kind of a policy environment, what kind of an institutional environment, what kind of a constitutional environment, what kind of a rights environment is consistent with economic growth.  When he was at the Council of Economic Advisors and when he worked for USAID, I remember talking with him about what at that time was a big time for the World Bank and for USAID, which was that if these countries have bad policies and we bribe their governments to not have these bad policies and we go away, we find that the bad policies come back again.  Which might suggest to you that there’s some more fundamental things that should be addressed. And these relate to the rights and other kinds of structures which form the basis for how economies do business with each other.  I think this is the big contribution that Gordon has and is making to economic literature and I look forward to much more of it.

As you move to your new areas Gordon, I’m sure you’ll be equally energetic and original, and that you always keep your eye on the ball, and that you’ll have as many balls in the air as are necessary to get the job done.  I’m gonna need a little help on this last part which I constructed as I was sitting here waiting for the meeting to start. And you’ll know when it’s time for.  So let me start.  Who can’t stand to lose even a pick up touch football game?   Gordon Rausser.  Who was onto the current policy themes for modilateral and donor organizations 15-20 years ago?  Gordon Rausser.  Who had a Ph.D. thesis that was 3 volumes long, in fact I may be the only person that read this 3 volumes? I can say this, Gordon Rausser. Who made a name for himself by writing economic articles about perts(?) and pests?  Gordon Rausser.  Who published the most papers on a model linking agriculture to the general economy that was never solved?  Gordon Rausser.  Who is the only Ag. Dean who owns a company that has world wide offices?  Gordon Rausser.  Who has the highest and most evident fidget level in boring meters?  Gordon Rausser.  Who helped make the Chronicle of Education a less boring publication?  Gordon Rausser.  Who is the biggest risk taker I know?  Gordon Rausser?  Who still thinks he can, he is a better athlete, and can win all the games with the graduate students at the annual softball game?  Gordon Rausser.  And who is my best friend?  Gordon Rausser.

Rod Park

Thank you Stan and a final quote from Jeff Romm, Professor Jeff Romm.  “Under Gordon’s leadership CNR has become a unified and strong college.  He has worked to shape a unit that is central within both the Berkeley campus and the public agricultural and natural resource areas.  This is an extraordinary accomplishment.  Moreover, Gordon has established templates that will secure this kind of remarkable growth in the future.  He is a stunning legacy.”

And now our final speaker is my old friend and colleague Carol Christ, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost.

Carol Christ

At the press conference announcing CNR’s research partnership with Novartis, the bionic baking brigade threw a pie at Gordon.  He dodged it, deftly, explaining that in past life, as I think you all know, he had been a boxer. If only at the beginning at our working relationship as Dean and boss,  I had known that fact.  Gordon and I came into office at the same time when there was a threat of significant loss of resources to the college from the DANR realignment proposal.  Gordon was pugnacious and wily in his defense of the college then and he’s been stalwarked and strategic in his defense of it since.

The philosopher Isaiah Berlin has made a distinction based on a fragment from the Greek poet, Archilicous.(?) between the fox and the hedgehog.  “The fox knows many things.  But the hedgehog knows one big thing.” For Berlin the distinction marks the deepest difference between different kinds of writers and thinkers.  Foxes pursue many ends, often unrelated.  Hedgehogs relate everything to a single, central vision. Shakespeare is a fox.  Milton is a hedgehog.  Or to switch spheres of activity, Bill Clinton is a fox.  Kenneth Star is a hedgehog.  I’ve been wondering whether Gordon is a fox or a hedgehog.  He’s brought an extraordinary variety of innovative ideas and strategies to his Deanship. The personality of the fox.  He knows many tricks.  But his most characteristic strategy is to resort to first principles.  In that he is a hedgehog.  He has insisted on uncompromising standards of excellence.  At the same time, he’s created an organization for the college that respects its variety. It’s a testimony to his achievement as Dean that he is something of both the fox and the hedgehog.  Or to return to my first metaphor, the boxer, who can weave and dodge, can stand his ground, can jab effectively and deliver a knock out blow when he sees his opening.  Gordon, I want to thank you for all you’ve contributed to the college and I’ve very much enjoyed working with you.

Rod Park

Thank you Carol. I now invite Gordon Rausser to the podium. Gordon, please come up here.  Gordon before your rebuttal, it is my privilege on behalf of the many donors and well-wishers to present you with this symbolic check for $301,000 which was the status of the still growing Gordon Rausser Scholarship Fund.  Some supporters this evening much deserve special thanks.  In particular, Bob Gilbert, George Crowley, Bob Harris, Bill and Alice Russell Shapiro, Nina Shapiro, and Gordon and his colleagues in the Law and Economic Consulting Group. Many thanks. Now we’re supposed to have, we have a picture.  Good.

Gordon, you’re never without a loss for words, do you have anything to say at this point?


I’ll work on it. I’ll work on it.

It’s gratifying to see so many personal friends and also many friends of the College of Natural Resources and the Berkeley campus. Many you have come from all over the country for tonight’s dinner.  I appreciate it.  In fact, the experience of tonight’s event for me has been so completely satisfactory, that I no longer feel the need to attend my own funeral.  When the College’s Advisory Board first suggested this evening’s event, I admit that I was skeptical.  I thank them not only for trumping my skepticism, but for supporting me and CNR through thick and thin, even during our moments of greatest controversy.  In this context, I thank both the Advisory Board and Chancellor Berdahl for leading an institution in which risk taking is fostered and merit wins out over political convenience.  We appreciate it.

The current status of CNR, as witnessed by descriptive statistics that you all have at your tables, would not have been possible without six years of extraordinary team work.  The team consists of four superb Associate Deans, an excellent Assistant Dean, who’s here this evening, eight divisional chairs, and eleven research center directors.  All of whom personally embraced our eight principles of excellence, embedding these principles in the very heart of our College.  Now I realize that it’s late and it’s not possible to thank each and every one of the people who are responsible for CNR’s success, however, there are 3 people that require special attribution.  I want my daughters to take note that all three of these people happen to be women. My daughters have always been concerned about my biases and prejudices and I hope that this attribution will force them to reexamine their views.

Now these three people are, one of you’ve already heard from, she’s the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ.  Carol shepherded all of the academic units, not just the College of Natural Resources, but all of the academic units on the Berkeley campus through a difficult period of budget cuts and the realignment proposal that was orchestrated out of the Office of the President.  And she did so with patience and the skills of a superb administrator. I began my tour as dean being convinced that whenever she rejected my proposals, she simply didn’t understand.  However, a few years ago it occurred to me, I suddenly realized that if Carol Christ rejected my proposals, I must have it wrong.  And I’d better go back to the drawing board to redesign the proposals and resubmit.  She’s a real delight.  We, the College, would not be where we are today without her guidance.

Secondly, the Associate Dean for Research and Extension, Sharon Fleming.  I begged and begged Sharon to be my Associate Dean and it’s one of the best decisions I made.  We both embraced our eight principles of excellence and followed those principles in the design of CNR strategy, in the implementation of that strategy, as well as the tactical execution.  Whenever I became impatient with individual faculty, Sharon gave me a tutorial on human relations and reminded me that we were dealing with some of the brightest minds of our time.
Third, and certainly not last, Laura Craft. My soul mate and the woman who taught me that kindness is a virtuous strength, not a weakness and that being smart is one thing, but being wise is quite another. Whenever I thought the popular press treated me and the College unfairly, not letting the facts and truth get in the way of a good story, she was the one who gave me perspective and comfort and I’ll always admire her for that.

Now, along with my gratitude for all the talented people associated with the College,  I wanted to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the institution.  The institution that brought us all together, namely Cal Berkeley.  As a young first year graduate student, I was awestruck when I first visited the Berkeley campus; reviewing materials in the Giannini Foundation Library, walking across the campus via Sather Gate, followed by a hike up Strawberry Canyon.  My experience at other institutions, including my time in Washington D.C. on the Council of Economic Advisors and as Chief Economist of the ID, reinforced my admiration and awe for what simply is known as Cal.

Think about it.  Have the citizens of this extraordinary state of California created any institution that has had a greater impact on our past or which has greater power to shape our future?  After over 130 years, Cal Berkeley continues in subtle and often overlooked ways to pour fresh knowledge, human capital, and innovation into the engines of our society. As an institution, Cal Berkeley demands excellence and has little patience for mediocrity. It heralds the latest and the newest, but never allows itself to be consumed by the intellectual fad of the day. It is a body that thinks both before and beyond its time.  We can all take great pride.  We do, those of us in the College of Natural Resources take grade pride in the fact that our College was one of the two cornerstones of this remarkable institution.

From this early beginning, CNR’s future has never been brighter than it is today.  And each of our eight divisions of fundamental scholarship and education, we dominate our competitive institutions.  I love it, I love it!  We deliver, we will deliver and we are delivering to society, new and creative biotechnologies, information technologies and natural technologies.  All of us who have had a long association with the Berkeley campus realize that this institution, what we call Cal, has two fundamental focal points.  First civilization and culture which is the domain or space of the College of Letters and Science, that is fundamentally, culturally driven.  The second core is the professional schools which provide education and research driven by societal needs and economics.

Very recently, I’m sure all of you have heard about a new fundamental core, namely the Health Initiative with its emphasis on human health and a focal point that is driven by the quality of life societal demands.  Three people in the audience tonight are the people who have orchestrated this new focal point.  I predict that a new focal point will emerge in the early part of the next century on the Berkeley campus, driven principally by society’s concerns for sustainability.  The College of Natural Resources will provide the intellectual leadership for this new focal point which will conduct research and educational programs with emphasis on global citizenship. The emphasis will not be simply upon isolated scientific problems, such as the global economy or global warming, but on how to close the knowledge gaps that exist not only between California and the rest of the United States, but between the developed world and the developing world and the knowledge gap that has helped trap the poorest of the poor in many parts of the world to live lives of pain and unpredictability.

For me, as an individual, UC Berkeley has provided an intellectual home, more congenial than I could have possibly imagined.  It has been and still is a place of challenge where the seemingly impossible somehow becomes doable. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to tackle the challenges that the College of Natural Resource faced and with my wonderful colleagues and faculty.  And I thank you for sharing this evening with me and my family. Thank you

Rod Park

This has been a great occasion and two people deserve our special appreciation for organizing it.  Rosemary Lucier and Laura Craft, please stand and be recognized.  Now before the toast I have a special story for Gordon.

As you are aware, among Gordon’s many honors, he occupies the Robert Gordon Sproul Distinguished Professor Chair.  Sproul, as we all know was the president who brought Berkeley almost over 30 years from a relatively unknown, Western regional university to the national stature it holds today.  There’s an apocryphal story about President Sproul which Gordon, as holder of this chair should know.

In the early 1930’s, Berkeley, like other universities was in severe financial straits.  One afternoon a man appeared in Sproul’s office and announced that he had to see the President immediately.  Sproul’s secretary, Agnes Robb pointed out that he needed to make a formal appointment.  What did he want to see the President about anyway?  The young man answered that he wanted to give the University
5 million dollars.  Agnes said, “Just a minute.” Sproul was informed and was willing to see him immediately.  The conversation went well. The young man had graduated from Berkeley a few years earlier and had entered the race horse breeding business with remarkable success.  He thought it only fair that a portion of the winnings should be returned to his alma mater. Sproul nodded in agreement.  But then the young man said, “You will have to do something for me in return.” Sproul responded eagerly, “What is that?”  “You must give an honorary degree to my best horse who is responsible for your good fortune.”  Sproul hiding his surprise went to the next room, called the President of the Board of Regents and explained the proposal, as could be expected, the Board President said, “Take the money, we’ll worry about the horse later.”

At the next charter day, all the dignitaries in academic dress entered the Greek Theatre.  At the end of the procession was a beautiful thoroughbred with a garland of red roses. The horse stood patiently in the sand circle below the stage. Finally it came time to award the honorary degrees until only the horse was left. Sproul who had been somewhat uncertain about how to handle this, had a sudden inspiration. “Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, under the authority of the Regents and the State Constitution, I am about to something that’s never been done before in higher education. I am about to award an honorary degree to an entire horse.”

Now in a sense, Gordon is neither a fox, nor a hedgehog. He is Sproul’s entire horse.  As already mentioned, through extraordinary horsepower, he has been extremely successful in his professional life. He has made enormous contributions to the program, resources and administration of the College of Natural Resources.  And finally, as a change agent, he, like the horse, makes the University on occasion, uncomfortable.  So Gordon, we could have presented you with a garland evocative of a champion, instead we raise a toast.

May you always be a professional dynamo, someone with broad visions and passion for your institution and yourself.

Thank you for coming this evening.

Selected Testimonials


Brian Wright:

The qualities that made Gordon so successful as dean were qualities that helped influence me to come to Berkeley when he recruited me as chair. With Gordon, we all know we had better be the best and then better. We had better be good enough to know the best when we see it. This was—and still is—a refreshing change from the attitudes of some lesser schools I have known.”
Imagination, initiative, and flair were not words that sprung to mind when I thought of college administrators until Gordon became dean. He took on the unenviable task of leading a directionless, dejected institution, weakened by voluntary retirements, under siege from the university and the state, at a time when project one was managing a series of mandated cuts in financial support. Right from the start, he grasped the opportunities hidden in the desperate situation, and set the college on a new road of transparency in resource allocation and unwavering focus on academic excellence.

Professor Douglas Irwin (Dartmouth):

Working with Gordon was particularly delightful because of his infectious laugh and sense of humor. In the 1987 Economic Report of the President—that was President Ronald Reagan—we crafted the following line: “Agriculture subsidies are in short, toweringly expensive.” That was a direct poke at the diminutive Senator John Tower, a staunch advocate of such federal subsidies. I doubt that many readers noticed all the puns and other amusements that we took delight in putting in the chapter. But we had tremendous fun in the process. I do recall however, that his first draft of the chapter was nearly as long as the entire final report. I hope he still has a copy of the mammoth draft that we presented to him as an anchor wrapped in chains at the party celebrating the publication of the report.

David Zilberman

Gordon’s perspective has always been that agricultural economics is not a marginal appendage to Economics but is a dynamic discipline, anchored in the real world, which opens new frontiers for economics.

I was very fortunate to benefit from Gordon’s warmth and humanity in times of personal crisis. I truly admire the way he raised his children and in spite of all his achievements, his brightest smile appears when he speaks about his grandchildren.

Jeff Romm, Professor and Chair, Resource Institutions, Policy, and Management, UCB

Under Gordon’s leadership, CNR has become a unified and strong college. He has worked to shape a unit that is central within both the Berkeley campus and the public agricultural and natural-resource areas. That is extraordinary accomplishment. Moreover, Gordon has established templates that will secure this kind of remarkable growth in the future. His is a stunning legacy.

“Sharon Fleming, Associate Dean (1995-2000)” (pdf)

Fleming (pdf)

Brewer (pdf)

Crawley (pdf)

Irwin (pdf)

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