Dean’s Desk: Reaffirming A Winning Formula

Students, faculty, staff, alums and friends gather to hear Dean Clark and other speakers convey the welcome news that the College will remain intact. Members of the Chris Chang lab enjoy the party. CoC undergrad Jonathan Melville toasts the College.

In recent months, the College of Chemistry experienced an unforeseen development. In early February, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced the launch of a campus-wide strategic planning and analysis process*. This process, comprehensive in scope, included an academic realignment initiative designed to explore whether, given the reduction in State funding, the campus’s current academic organization is best suited to support excellence in our research and education in future years. A primary motivation behind any restructuring and budgetary reform is to reinforce Berkeley’s existing strengths and expand opportunities for multiunit initiatives and academic collaborations.

As part of the analysis process, my colleagues and I began an active dialogue with campus. One of the options initially considered was a formal change in the status of the College of Chemistry, whereby the Department of Chemistry would move into the College of Letters & Sciences and the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering would join the College of Engineering.

The intrinsic merit of our College spans generations, and is evident from our historical achievements as well as our present strengths: our enrollment is at a peak, our academic and research programs are thriving, we are fundraising at record-breaking levels, and our global reputation for transcending boundaries remains unparalleled. Nevertheless, as news of the possible restructuring reached the College of Chemistry community, it generated considerable interest and concern.

The outpouring of support was truly remarkable. So many of you came forward in favor of the College’s unique structure, emphasizing how important it is to our worldwide reputation, to the outstanding productivity of our renowned faculty and graduates, and to our strength as a fundraising and revenue-generating enterprise.

All’s well that ends well, as we have reaffirmed that our current structure, which has been in place for nearly 150 years, still represents the best option for continued success. Thus, the College of Chemistry will remain intact as a single academic unit.

Not that we should not strive to be even better. Indeed, we welcome the opportunity to work with campus and other units to help devise creative ways for addressing Berkeley’s structural deficit and exploit the multidisciplinary power of this great university. Our current plans include moving ahead with our visionary new building campaign (see pp. 20–21), and launching our innovative investment vehicle for philanthropic donors and financial investors, the Berkeley Catalyst Fund (see pp. 17–19).

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge some of the key players who contributed to this important process:

Dean, College of Chemistry
Gilbert N. Lewis Professor

• Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Alex Bell spearheaded a group letter from the College of Chemistry faculty;
• Alumnus Ron Silva, a member of the College’s Advisory Board, crafted a group letter from a majority of our Board members;
• Alumnus, Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Yuan T. Lee sent a letter of support, as did our five living Nobel Laureate alumni—Tom Cech, Robert Curl, Mario Molina, Kurt Wüthrich, and Ahmed Zewail;
• Professor of the Graduate School in Chemistry and National Medal of Science awardee Gabor Somorjai shepherded a letter from three other National Medalists in the College—professors Darleane Hoffman, Judith Klinman and John Prausnitz;
• prominent members of the campus community sent individual letters;
• alumni, colleagues and friends contributed numerous emails, letters and phone calls; and,
• perhaps most remarkably, chemistry undergraduate Jonathan Melville independently initiated a petition** that garnered nearly 4,500 signatures and scores of heartfelt comments from students, parents, staff, alumni and friends across the nation, catalyzing articles in the international, national, state and local media***.

As dean, I am deeply grateful for the energy, devotion, and commitment shown by so many of you. Thank you. We took the important step of posing timely and difficult questions, while looking within and beyond the College, and worked together to determine the best outcome. I am tremendously proud to be the dean of this College as we head into the future, and I look forward to working with all of you to build upon its great foundation and secure its lasting excellence.


Dean, College of Chemistry
Gilbert N. Lewis Professor

*(see, search for “campus announcement”)
**(see, search for “college of chemistry”)
***(see, search for “college of chemistry”)