April 12, 1999
By Jim Burns and Terry Colvin
Angus E. Taylor, third chancellor of UCSC, vice president of academic affairs under four UC presidents, and chairman of the universitywide Academic Council during the Free Speech Movement, died in a Berkeley hospital on Tuesday, April 6, after a brief illness. He was 87.
Appointed acting chancellor of UCSC in February 1976 following the resignation of his predecessor, Mark N. Christensen, Taylor brought stability to the very young campus at a time when its administrative structure was still being developed and its popularity among prospective students was in temporary decline. In September of that year, then-UC president David Saxon dropped the "acting" from Taylor's title, and Taylor served as chancellor until he retired in July 1977 after a long and distinguished career with the University of California.
Though chancellor for only one and one-half years, he is credited by many with helping build a solid organizational foundation upon which the campus has grown. "Angus Taylor provided the kind of experience and leadership that UCSC needed during a critical transition period, and we owe him lasting appreciation for that," noted Chancellor Greenwood. "Personally, I will cherish the memory of his friendship and warm support."
UC President Richard C. Atkinson also acknowledged Taylor's many contributions to the entire University of California system. "I met Angus Taylor when we were faculty members at UCLA in the 1950s and immediately admired his unique combination of sound common sense and uncommon devotion to the academic enterprise," he said. "Few individuals have served UC so long, so variously, or so well. The university is deeply indebted to him and so am I."
Memorial arrangements for Taylor have not yet been announced.
Born in 1911 on a ranch homesteaded by his parents near Craig, Colorado, Taylor was a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics in 1933. By 1936, he had earned a Ph.D. in math from California Institute of Technology.
Taylor was an instructor at Caltech in 1936-37, before beginning a career with the University of California that spanned nearly four decades. He began it at UCLA in 1938, serving as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics. By 1947, he was a professor of math, and he chaired the department from 1958 to 1964.
In 1964, Taylor became chairman of the Academic Council of UC's Academic Senate. He was chairman during the Free Speech Movement of 1964-65--one of the most turbulent periods in UC's 131-year history. The turmoil, which began with a series of student-led protests and more than 770 arrests at UC Berkeley, culminated in a showdown between the Board of Regents and the Academic Senate over which body had the authority to regulate on-campus political activity and to discipline students accused of misconduct for political activities both on- and off-campus.
Former UC President Clark Kerr, in the forward to a short history of the Academic Senate written by Taylor in 1998 as part of the Kerr Memoirs Project, credited Taylor with constructing much of the compromise that resolved the impasse. "Angus with his good judgement and calm manner, along with a small number of others, literally saved the university from a possible conflagration at the Board of Regents' meeting at UCLA in December 1964," Kerr wrote. "This made him, in my eyes, one of the giants in the history of the Academic Senate."
The Taylor-led compromise evolved into a policy still in effect today: The University of California Policies Relating to Students and Student Organizations, Use of University Facilities and Non-Discrimination. That document established for the first time that "students have the right of free expression and advocacy," states that students are to "refrain from disorderly conduct," and declares that students "may not be disciplined for off-campus violations" of UC policies unless "the conduct...affects (their) suitability as a student. Political action, as such, shall not be deemed to affect suitability."
In 1965, Kerr appointed Taylor to the newly created position of vice president of academic affairs. Taylor remained in that position, advising Presidents Kerr, Acting President Harry Wellman, and Presidents Charles Hitch and David Saxon, until 1975, when he was named university provost--the system's highest academic officer. A year later, Taylor was appointed to the Santa Cruz post.
In addition to his role as peacemaker in the Free Speech Movement controversy, Taylor played a direct role in leading the university through many of its other stormy crises of the late 1960s and 1970s, including the firing of President Kerr by the Board of Regents in 1967, the Regents/faculty clash over the hiring of Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver to teach an experimental sociology course at Berkeley in 1968, the refusal of President Hitch and UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young to fire Angela Davis from her post as an assistant professor of philosophy in 1969 because of her ties to the Communist Party, and the creation of a faculty code of conduct following the "reconstitution of courses" by many faculty in 1970 as protest over the Vietnam War.
Taylor was a lifelong member of the Sierra Club and spent many vacations hiking in the Sierra. He lived in Kensington, California, and in retirement maintained an active association with UCSC, serving as an honorary member of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation. At the time of his death, he was completing a manuscript describing the history of the University of California during the Free Speech Movement.
Angus Taylor was preceded in death by his wife of 46 years, Patsy Taylor, who passed away in 1982. He is survived by three children, sons Gordon and Kenneth of Tulsa and Norman, Oklahoma, respectively; a daughter, Kathleen (Kitty) Okamoto of Gig Harbor, Washington, who graduated in 1971 from UCSC (Cowell College) with a degree in history; and six grandchildren.
At the family's request, contributions in Angus Taylor's name may be made to the UC Santa Cruz Foundation and designated for the "Angus and Patsy Taylor Fund," an endowment that supports the academic activities of Cowell College.
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