On September 12, 2018, the Oral History Center celebrated the release of our oral history with UC President Emeritus Mark Yudof at the Morrison Library. In the best oral histories, we come to understand a lot more about what shapes people, and how those people in turn engage with the world and have an influence, modest or grand, on institutions, policies, bodies of knowledge and practice, and people.
Professor Yudof is both very candid and extremely wide-ranging in these interview sessions, which were conducted between 2014 and 2016. There is food for thought in these sessions about class, race, culture, ethnicity, faith, opportunity, exclusion, belonging, fateful decisions, philosophy and poetry, altogether forming a branching life path that informed his purpose and choices.
There is also much discussion of legal issues to do with education reform, for which he has long been an advocate, of his leadership of two large public university systems in Minnesota and Texas, and of his time as president of the University of California between 2008 and 2013. These were catalytic years in the history of the system, and Yudof’s recollections form an important part of the documentary record.
It was a real challenge to try to capture in a brief video reel what is in this oral history. But something interesting often follows Mark Yudof’s use of the phrase “by the way.” “By the way” in his usage seems to be the fulcrum of a careful thinker. So this phrase became a guidepost for the editing of this clip. If you disagree with the importance of “by the way,” then at the very least this device serves as a way to sample such a broad and deep set of subjects.
–Paul Burnett, September 19th, 2018
Michael B. Teitz is Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a Senior Fellow and Director of Economy at the Public Policy Institute of California, which he helped establish. In addition to a distinguished, thirty-five year career at UC Berkeley, and policy work that still continues at PPIC that still continues, he has served as a consultant to local, state, and national governments, both in the United States and Internationally. In this interview he discusses growing up in London during and after World War II; Coming to the United States for graduate school; the various events and changes he experienced at UC Berkeley between 1962 and 1998; developments in the fields of Planning and Regional Science; his consulting work for local and state governments in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia; and leaving Berkeley to establish PPIC and serving as its founding Research Director.
Lester Telser is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Chicago. A student at Chicago in the 1950s, Dr. Telser was first a professor in the Graduate School of Business until 1964. Dr. Telser’s life work is the theory of the core, a variant of game theory that involves coalitions of agents as opposed to individuals working to maximize their advantage. He used sophisticated mathematics to study why and how certain forms of markets are organized without appeals to more established concepts in economics. As both a student and colleague at the Chicago economics department, and as a fellow at both the Cowles Commission and the Cowles Foundation, Telser is a key witness to the transformation of the field of economics after World War II.
The impact of economics in our society is hard to overstate. Economics structures government policy, guides decision-making in firms both small and large, and indirectly shapes the larger political discourses in our society.
To enrich the understanding of the influence and sources of powerful economic ideas, the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics at the University of Chicago set out in 2015 to capture oral histories of selected economists associated with Chicago economics. The aim was to preserve the experiences, views, and voices of influential economists and to document the historical origins of important economic ideas for the benefit of researchers, educators, and the broader public. This oral history with Lester Telser, conducted in ten sessions in Chicago, IL, from July to October 2017, is the third interview for the project.
Economist Life Stories is more than a collection of life histories; it chronicles the history of a scholarly community and institutions at the University of Chicago, such as the Graduate School of Business, the Cowles Commission, and the Department of Economics. It also reflects the achievements of faculty and students in the domains of economic policymaking and private enterprise around the world. Although this project focuses on the leaders and students of the University of Chicago Department of Economics, the Graduate School of Business, and the Law School, we hope to add more stories from economists around the world as the project expands.
Hodson Thornber and Paul Burnett organized the project with Toni Shears and Amy Boonstra of the Becker Friedman Institute, with important support from an advisory group of historians and economists.
Financial support for this work was provided by Hodson Thornber, a member of the Becker Friedman Institute Council, whose contribution is gratefully acknowledged.
This oral history with J. Michael Bishop is one in a series documenting bioscience and biotechnology in Northern California. Selecting Rous sarcoma virus, a cancer-causing retrovirus, after arriving at UCSF in 1968, Bishop was soon joined by Harold E. Varmus with whom he established a partnership legendary for its length and productivity. In a seminal publication of 1976, they established the proto-oncogene as a normal cell component and precursor of oncogenes. In 1989, Bishop and Varmus were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this research. With some reluctance, Bishop agreed to become UCSF Chancellor in 1998. His highly productive eleven years saw the creation and staffing of the Mission Bay campus and record-breaking fundraising success, among other important events he oversaw. The oral history consists of five interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017, with an introduction by colleagues Bruce Alberts and Harold Varmus.
Today we commemorate the life of Gildo Mahones, an inspiring, talented, and powerful bop-based pianist who grew up in Harlem in the 1930s and 40s and played with virtually all the jazz greats during the 1950s and 60s. He passed away last week at the age of 88. His 2015 oral history addresses a plethora of issues surrounding jazz: his childhood in Harlem, the advent of bebop and its luminaries, jazz vocalism, racism, and more.
Mahones was born to Puerto Rican parents in the Spanish section of East Harlem in 1929. Later the family moved to an apartment behind the Apollo Theatre, and in the 1950s, he eventually performed with many of the jazz greats he heard there as a teenager, including Duke Ellington and Count Basie. In a Berkeleyside feature of Mahones, writer Andrew Gilbert describes how the pianist and the piano were not love at first sight; after an unsuccessful first lesson at age seven, it took his mother moving the neighbor’s left-behind piano into their home and a family friend doling out some live tunes on the piano for Mahones to finally warm up to the instrument.
After being hired to perform in 1949 at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem and then briefly serving in the military, Mahones became the pianist for Lester Young’s band at Birdland. Here, he wrote dozens of songs. On composing, Mahones said in his interview, “Oh, the songs come to me in many ways. […] A dream could blossom into a song.” He goes on to describe Young’s unique style of playing and his friendship with Billie Holiday, whom he dubbed Lady Day and who called Young ‘Prez’.
In 1965, Mahones moved to Los Angeles to work with Joe Williams and Harry “Sweets” Edison at the Pied Piper club, also working with vocalists O.C. Smith, Lou Rawls, James Moody, Big Joe Turner, and Lorez Alexandria, with whom he recorded several albums. Throughout the 1970s, he was a popular sideman in clubs across Southern California, and toured Japan and Europe with Benny Carter and with his own band. Mahones has several recordings published with a Japanese company, which unfortunately have not been released in the US. Later on, he and Mary, his wife of 45 years, moved to Oakland so as to be near their daughter and grandson. He practiced often and performed at clubs and galleries around the Bay Area.
You can hear more of Mahones’ reflections in this video excerpt from his oral history.
This podcast is about the politics of the first encounters with the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. The six episodes draw from the thirty-five interviews that Sally Smith Hughes conducted in the 1990s. A historian of science at UC Berkeley’s Oral History Office, Sally interviewed doctors, nurses, researchers, public health officials and community-health practitioners to learn about the unique ways that people responded to the epidemic. Although these interviews cover a wide range of topics, including the isolation of the virus HIV and the search for treatments, the interviews we selected for this podcast are more focused on public health, community engagement, and nursing care. Most of the following podcast episodes are about the period from early 1981, when the first reports emerged of an unknown disease that was killing gay men in San Francisco, to 1984 and the development of a new way of caring for people in a hospital setting.
Episode 1 explores what it was like to be gay in San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s, before people became aware of the epidemic.
Visit The Berkeley Remix for release of Episodes 2-6 each Wednesday.
UC Berkeley alumna Ruth Petersson Bancroft, founder of The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and well-known expert in dry gardening, passed away at the age of 109 on Nov. 26. Her oral history, The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California: Creation in 1971 and Conservation, conducted in 1991 and 1992, is described by interviewer Suzanne B. Riess as “…the amazing chronicle of the growth of a passionate gardener, from her childhood recollections of spring wildflowers on the hills of an earlier, bucolic Berkeley, to her current triumphs, and the tribulations of stewardship of a garden more or less in the public trust.”
The daughter of first-generation Swedish immigrants, Ruth Petersson was born in Massachusetts, but moved to Berkeley, California when her father landed a professorship at UC Berkeley. Of her childhood, she said, “I spent a lot of time wandering around and also over into Wildcat Canyon, just looking at the wildflowers and I think that’s what started me in the interest of wildflowers…” Although Ruth originally studied architecture as one of the only women in the program at UC Berkeley, the Great Depression hit and so for the sake of job security, she switched her career to education. It was during her time as a teacher of home economics in Merced that she met Philip Bancroft, Jr., the grandson of Hubert Howe Bancroft, whose 60,000-volume book collection began the Bancroft Library. After they married, the couple moved onto the Bancroft Farm in the East Bay. The Bancroft family sold much of their land to the city of Walnut Creek as it expanded over the years. Later, in 1971, Philip Bancroft, Jr. gave the last 3-acre plot of walnut orchards to his wife in order to house her extensive collection of succulents.
Though The Ruth Bancroft Garden now boasts a beautiful display of water-conserving plants, the garden was not without its hardships at the beginning. Just a few months after Bancroft began her garden, a severe freeze in December killed nearly all that she had planted. Still, she persevered. “Well, I started again the next year… I figured it doesn’t happen that often, and you can’t just not replant those same things, because they might have another twenty years before they’d be killed again. So I’m just replanting. Have to start over again.” To this, Riess queried, “You didn’t think in some way you had been given a message?” Bancroft laughed and replied, “No.”
A long-time friend of Bancroft and former manager at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Wayne Roderick said, “I would classify Ruth as a genuine dirt gardener. She’s out there doing things with her bare hands. She would be out in the garden by seven at the latest, and for the first hour she was weeding the path of the little spotted spurge, hand-weeding those paths until her knees would get so sore from the rocks, the gravel. That’s what I mean by a genuine dirt gardener.” In addition to Bancroft’s hands-on style of working, she also kept meticulous records as she created her garden. An invaluable addition to her oral history is the transcription of the entirety of her handwritten notes on the garden’s first year, cataloguing every trial and triumph. Riess urges in her introduction to the oral history, “Any gardener will do well to read that year of Ruth’s journal, to see the value of a journal, as well as the work involved in realizing a dream, and the necessity of being willing to weed!”
Over the years, Bancroft also had many helpers that contributed to the development of her impressive creation, such as Lester Hawkins, who created the original design of the garden, and her husband Philip. Roderick recalls, “Phil Bancroft just adored Ruth, and he wanted her to have anything she wanted. He did everything he could to help her. I don’t think Phil thought about the garden continuing, but he certainly was there to make sure she got what she wanted for the place. He was a farmer-type, but he enjoyed seeing the garden, and he was willing to get in and help.” Later, her garden would inspire fellow gardener Francis Cabot to create the Garden Conservancy, of which the Ruth Bancroft Garden became the first of many private gardens to be preserved for the public.
Still, through all of the international recognition and acclaim she received, Bancroft maintained a simple and genuine love for gardening: “You never know just what’s going to bloom when, during the summer. And a lot of the bloom just lasts a day, or possibly two days. It’s interesting to see what there is, and catch it before it’s gone.” When asked whether she had had a mission for the garden, she replied, “I just started it for the fun of it, and the enjoyment of it. I had no idea that people would be looking at it, no idea at all.“
Oral History Center Student Assistant
New to the Oral History Center: Connections and Friendships: Roger Samuelsen’s Years with the University of California
Roger Samuelsen has held a number of key administrative positions for the University of California System. A graduate of UC Berkeley’s School of Law in 1964, Samuelsen was the Director of the UC’s Natural Reserve System from 1974 until 1991. He subsequently served on the Executive Staff to the Site Selection Task Force, which was responsible for recommending to the President and The Regents the site of the tenth campus, and assumed several leadership roles during the early development of UC Merced. Throughout his career, he has maintained a deep involvement in UC Berkeley, and served on multiple boards and committees. He has also served on boards and committees with the Save the Redwoods League, the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, and the Orinda Community Church.
This oral history is, like many of those that are part of the University History series, the continuation of institutional history by means of a life story. Through the life of Roger Samuelsen, we learn about the history of the development of the Natural Reserve System of the University of California; the site selection for the tenth campus of the UC system, UC Merced; and the changing fortunes and evolution of UC Berkeley, his alma mater and an important lifelong focus.
What immediately became apparent as I was preparing for this oral history was the enthusiasm his friends and former colleagues showed for the project. The refrain was that Roger was a key driver in the institutions that he helped to found and develop. As I began to work with Roger, I wanted to understand this particular species of administrator in the UC system. For many years, Roger was the director of the Natural Reserve System, which he shepherded from its initial foundation to encompass dozens of sites across California, preserving and guaranteeing access to unique ecosystems for the benefit of the public, students, and the international scientific community.
What did it take to succeed in roles such as these? Like the organisms in the ecosystems he worked to preserve, Roger fit well into the ecosystem of the University of California. When he graduated from UC Berkeley, Roger was passionate about student life and politics, and was already well developed to lead a purposeful life. After training as a lawyer, he immersed himself in the elements that make up higher education in California: laws, rules, institutions, money, and people, most of all people. This immersion would serve him well in his second career helping to develop the recommendations for the final site of the tenth campus of the University of California – UC Merced.
Both the NRS and the UC Merced site-selection stories turn on the use of land in California. It is difficult to think of a more contentious domain with more numerous stakeholders. It will become apparent in this oral history that the key to success in managing these contentious spaces was Roger’s passion for the people and nature of California. He developed strong bonds with the people with whom he worked in the course of his career. He grew to share the deeper purpose of the preservation of the diversity of life in these precious ecosystems of California, and the preservation of the diversity of opportunity that the University of California represents. To that end, he has devoted uncounted hours volunteering his time and efforts to strengthen the university by helping to raise funds and administer programs for the university system and even K-12 schools. Since his encounters with Clark Kerr as a young man, Roger has spent his life fostering the furtherance of the democratic ideal of California education.
I am concerned that Roger’s humility and care for others sometimes obscured the extent of his roles in these larger stories. You will note that he readily deflects attention away from himself and toward the work and importance of his friends, family, and colleagues. For Roger, this oral history was in many ways an exercise in the expression of gratitude. But it is also perhaps an example of how he has lived a life very deeply connected to others.
Paul Burnett, Berkeley, CA
Now available: Hadley Roff: A Life in Politics, Government and Public Service Oral History Transcript with video excerpts below. Hadley Roff (1931-2016) was a top aid and advisor to four San Francisco mayors from 1967 to 1992: Joseph Alioto, Dianne Feinstein, Art Agnos and Frank Jordan. He attended Stanford University from 1950 to 1954 where he was editor of the Stanford Daily. From 1957 to 1964 he was a night beat reporter for the S.F. News. He became a vocal advocate for firefighter safety and was beloved by the San Francisco Fire Department, serving on the Fire Commission beginning in 1995. In these interviews, Roff recalls the turbulence in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s: Harvey Milk’s and George Moscone’s assassinations in 1978, Jonestown, the early years of the AIDS crisis. He recalls events on the national stage as they played out in San Francisco: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination and Watergate, among others. In 1992 Roff was press secretary for Dianne Feinstein’s senatorial campaign, and head of her California senate staff office from 1992 to 1995.
We are delighted to introduce the oral history of our former colleague, Malca Chall: Wage Rate Analyst for the War Labor Board, World War II; East Bay Community Activist; Interviewer/Editor for the Regional Oral History Office, 1967-2000.
Malca is well known in the Oral History Center as a key staff member for thirty-three years. She came to the Regional Oral History Office, as we were then named, in 1967 and soon became an indispensable and respected interviewer, project director, and right-hand woman to director Willa Baum. Over the years she planned and carried out an impressive array of oral histories, most prominently in the fields of California water policy and politics and government. Her final volume of interviews was completed in 2000.
Few of Malca’s colleagues were aware of an earlier chapter in her life: her employment with the National War Labor Board in Seattle during World War II. Once we learned of her work as a wage rate analyst in the Seattle area for the War Labor Board, we realized that her story would add a unique perspective to our Rosie the Riveter / World War II American Home Front Project. Recognizing an opportunity to also document some important history of the Regional Oral History Office, where I was her colleague for many years, I offered to record Malca’s wartime experiences as the first topic in a longer oral history encompassing her career with ROHO. Only after meeting with Malca to plan her oral history did I realize the importance of also discussing her extensive civic activism in the Hayward/Castro Valley area. In many ways, her volunteer activities with the League of Women Voters and other citizen groups, as well as her wartime experiences, informed her pursuits as an interviewer and project director at ROHO.
Malca Kleiner Chall was born in 1920 in Tacoma, Washington, to a family active in business, in civic affairs, and in the Jewish community. Malca graduated from Reed College and received a master’s degree in political science at the University of Iowa.
In 1943, she accepted an offer from George Bernard Noble, her major professor at Reed who had been appointed head of the War Labor Board, Twelfth Region, to join his staff in Seattle. At age twenty-three, with minimal formal training, she stepped into the ticklish job of analyzing requests for wage increases from both labor and industry, as the WLB sought to dampen inflationary pressures in the midst of critical labor shortages. She visited potato fields, apple orchards, and fisheries, as well as banks, aluminum factories, shipping companies, and other work sites, conducting research and making determinations on acceptable wage rates.
In the oral history Malca reflects on the impact of her wartime employment and also discusses social and political life in wartime Seattle for a young professional woman. An amusing highlight of this section is her account of a bike trip with a friend and colleague, during which the two young women spent a night in a jail cell, arranged by the police of Everett, Washington, when the friends found themselves without a safe place to sleep.
Following the war, Malca moved to New York in search of a job in labor relations. She found work instead with the Edward Bernays public relations firm and in time met and married her husband, Harold Chall. After they moved west to California, settling south of Oakland in San Leandro and then Hayward and Castro Valley, Malca launched her second career as a civic activist, or as she puts it, “a pioneer of controversy in the community.” She worked for the Community Welfare Council in Oakland until the birth of the first of her two sons, David and Barry. As a young mother, she joined the League of Women Voters and was soon a leader in its Eden Unit, spearheading a study of the Hayward city government and helping to draft and secure voter approval for substantial charter revisions. She was active in campaigns for local political figures, including March Fong Eu’s election to the State Assembly as the second woman and first Asian American in the California legislature. She was also prominent in numerous battles to counter right-wing-John Birch Society-McCarthyite pressures in the Hayward area and to secure increased funding for local schools.
In 1967, Malca was hired by Willa Baum, long-time director of the Regional Oral History Office. Her background in political issues and personal relationships with East Bay women who had entered the arena of local and statewide government soon led to the development of one of ROHO’s earliest major projects, California Women Political Leaders, focusing on elected officials, political party officers, and community leaders from 1920 to 1970. She documented an era where women in elected offices at the state and federal levels were few and far between, demonstrating how they had nevertheless long been active, if often behind the scenes, in governance of political parties and community organizations, in local government and on school boards. She helped secure project funding for the Women Political Leaders project from multiple sources, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation, honing an essential survival skill in an office that was funded almost solely by grants and gifts. Malca directed the Women Political Leaders project and was eventually tapped to conduct interviews in a variety of other subject areas, from banking to education to health care, even as she became the primary interviewer on California water policy for many years. Her wide-ranging work on water—from sanitary engineers to the founders of Save-the-Bay, from Governor Pat Brown and state water resource managers to the architects of the historic federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act—has made the Oral History Center’s collection an essential source for researchers on California water issues.
Willa Baum soon recognized Malca’s organizational skills, work ethic, and attention to detail and enlisted her for key tasks in office management. In the oral history, Malca describes preparing style and indexing guidelines for her projects, which became templates for many others. She researched average times to complete each aspect of the oral history process, an essential budgeting tool. Most impressive was the multi-paged comprehensive production manual, outlining each task in the oral history process, whose responsibility it was, and in which file drawer each stage of the evolving transcript should be placed, an essential document for an office primarily staffed by a shifting array of part-time workers, as many as thirty people sharing desks in a four-room space. Malca also discusses her contributions to outreach, including performing with Amelia Fry in a play based on ROHO’s interviews with suffragists. Throughout the oral history she recalls many of the ROHO women (almost all staff members were women), and the leadership qualities of Willa Baum, as well as friendships, fun, and challenges of her three-decade career with the Regional Oral History Office.
From January to May 2015, Malca and I met for seven sessions at her Hayward home to record her oral history. After receiving the lightly edited transcript, she undertook her characteristically careful review, did further research to check her facts, and added in names or details she had overlooked. She did not edit her words beyond a few clarifying changes. As we finished the review, Malca was packing up her house for a move to a retirement community nearby. Ever the careful historian, as she sifted through files she gathered historically significant papers and placed them with the Hayward Area Historical Society or the Bancroft Library, as appropriate. Her research files relating to water issues went to the Water Resources Center Archives (now the Water Resources Collections and Archives at UC Riverside) when she retired from ROHO.
Nearly all of the oral histories Malca Chall conducted during her ROHO career are available on line through the Oral History Center website, where also can be found the oral history with former director Willa K. Baum, conducted in part by Malca Chall. The Oral History Center is a division of the Bancroft Library and is under the direction of Martin Meeker. Special thanks are due to David Dunham who directs the World War II American Home Front project; he first tapped Malca as a Rosie interviewee and has shepherded this oral history throughout the process.