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March 17, 1998

Dean E. McHenry, founding chancellor of UC Santa Cruz, dies at 87

Prior to his 13-year tenure as head of UCSC, he helped draft California's higher education Master Plan

Dean E. McHenry

By Jim Burns

SANTA CRUZ--Dean E. McHenry, founding chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a driving force behind the growth of California's multitiered system of public higher education, died on Tuesday, March 17. He was 87.

McHenry died of natural causes at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, the city where he helped plan and open a University of California campus in the 1960s. He had been hospitalized for the past week.

"As both an architect of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an advocate for a system of public higher education that served all students, Dean McHenry literally touched the lives of generations of Californians," noted M.R.C. Greenwood, UC Santa Cruz's current chancellor. "He will be greatly missed."

Private services will be held for McHenry. Plans for a public ceremony honoring UCSC's founding chancellor will be announced at a later date by the family and UCSC.

Appointed chancellor of UCSC in July 1961, McHenry began his 13-year tenure as head of the campus a little more than four years before UCSC opened with a class of 650 students. When he retired in June 1974, the student body totaled 5,000, and UCSC had awarded some 4,800 baccalaureate, master's, and doctorate degrees in more than two dozen subjects. Today, UCSC has 10,600 students enrolled.

Born in 1910 in the California town of Lompoc, McHenry studied political science, earning a bachelor's degree from UCLA in 1932, where he was student body president; a master's from Stanford University in 1933; and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1936.

He taught government at Williams College in Massachusetts and political science at Pennsylvania State College before joining the UCLA political science faculty in 1939. At UCLA for almost two decades, McHenry authored many books, including The American Federal Government and The American System of Government. He served in numerous positions in academic administration, including dean of social sciences and chairman of the Department of Political Science. During his tenure at UCLA, McHenry was a Carnegie Fellow in New Zealand and Australia (1946-47) and a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Western Australia (1954).

In 1958, McHenry's former roommate at Stanford, Clark Kerr, assumed the presidency of the University of California system. Kerr quickly recruited McHenry to the post of academic assistant to the president. By 1960, McHenry had taken on additional responsibilities as university dean of academic planning.

During those years with Kerr, McHenry served as UC's representative on the "survey team" that drafted California's Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960--a blueprint that defined specific roles and admissions standards for the state's University of California, State College (later State University), and Community College systems. The plan also provided a vision of low-cost education that would be accessible to all high school graduates, a policy that was later credited with helping turn California into an economic power. His work on the Master Plan, Kerr said, "introduced universal access to higher education."

McHenry also helped Kerr plan for the development of three new UC campuses that had been authorized by the Board of Regents. The site-selection process would lead to campuses in Irvine, San Diego, and Santa Cruz--and Kerr tapped McHenry to lead the latter campus.

The two shared an educational philosophy that guided both the academic and physical planning of the new campus. The campus's first master plan envisioned a research university influenced by educational models such as Cambridge, Oxford, and Swarthmore College (where Kerr had been an undergraduate), in which academic and residential lives were entwined. The Santa Cruz version of the residential university comprised a cluster of separate colleges, each with a specific academic focus and architectural design. Kerr and McHenry reasoned that, as the campus grew, students could realize the benefits of a major research university while avoiding the impersonal trappings of many large campuses.

During the planning years before the campus opened, McHenry established an academic and administrative backbone for the new campus, (with founding provost Page Smith) recruited dozens of distinguished scholars such as botanist Kenneth Thimann to the faculty, and kept abreast of numerous construction details. His wife, Jane, also played a pivotal role in UCSC's development during those planning years--and throughout McHenry's tenure as chancellor.

John Dizikes, a professor of American studies at UCSC, was another of the scholars McHenry brought to the fledgling campus. "Dean's years at UC Santa Cruz were the capstone to a long and distinguished career in higher education in which he saw academic service as a form of public service," Dizikes said. "He was an originator, and there are few people who have such an opportunity and even fewer people who realize the opportunity."

"Dean McHenry cared about our University of California, our Santa Cruz County community, our state, and our nation," added Hal Hyde, hired by McHenry in 1964 as UCSC's first vice chancellor for business and finance. "He inspired all of us who worked with him; we share a great loss."

In fall 1965, Cowell College opened as the first of the UCSC "cluster colleges." But with construction not yet completed, UCSC's first-year students lived in trailers, dubbed "UC Mobile Home Estates," that were located on the East Field. The Field House, one of the first completed facilities on campus, served as dining hall, meeting facility, classroom, and, sometimes, conference room.

Ten years after his hiring as chancellor of UCSC, McHenry had overseen the development of $63 million in construction projects and the hiring of more than 1,000 academic and nonacademic employees.

In the years that followed his tenure as chancellor, McHenry remained an active member of the UCSC family, serving as a member of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation. He also remained very interested in the development of UCSC's Arboretum, Long Marine Laboratory, its colleges, and intercollegiate sports program.

McHenry was also an active participant in the Santa Cruz community, supporting the activities of Dominican Hospital, the Santa Cruz County Community Foundation, and the Santa Cruz Main Rotary Club.

"That such a kind and gentle man could have been so strong and effective a visionary is a precious legacy from Dean McHenry which extends far beyond our community," said Anne Levin, trustee of the UCSC Foundation.

In his retirement years, he and his wife also were very active in the family-owned and operated McHenry Vineyards on their Bonny Doon ranch in rural Santa Cruz County.

Dean McHenry is survived by his wife of 63 years, Jane; four children, Sally MacKenzie of Kansas, Dean McHenry Jr., of Claremont, California, Nancy Fletcher of Texas, and Henry McHenry of Davis, California; 9 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.

At the family's request, contributions in Dean McHenry's name may be made to the UC Santa Cruz Foundation and designated for the "Dean E. McHenry Fund" or the UCSC Arboretum.

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