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Open Access Publications from the University of California

From the Mysteries of the Universe to the Mysteries of the Univers-ity: An Oral History with UC Santa Cruz Chancellor George Blumenthal


George R. Blumenthal arrived at UC Santa Cruz in 1972 as a young faculty member in astronomy and astrophysics. Thirty-five years later, on September 19, 2007, he became UCSC’s tenth chancellor, after serving as acting chancellor for fourteen months. Blumenthal dedicated thirteen years of his life to being chancellor of UC Santa Cruz. This oral history was transcribed from forty interviews recorded between June 2018 and July 2019 and encompasses Chancellor Blumenthal’s long and distinguished career at UC Santa Cruz and with the University of California system. Long before he became chancellor, Blumenthal served the campus in diverse capacities; he was the faculty representative to the UC Regents (2003-05); chaired the UC Santa Cruz division of the Academic Senate (2001-03); and served as chair of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department twice. But not only does this oral history cover almost fifty years of UCSC’s history—from the early years of Oakes College under Provost J. Herman Blake, to the impacts of the defunding of public higher education in more recent years—it is also infused with Blumenthal’s insider’s viewpoint on the University of California system that he gained as vice-chair of the UC Academic Senate (2003-2004); chair of UC Academic Senate (2004-05); and experience serving on many other UC-wide committees and endeavors. In 2010, Blumenthal received the Oliver Johnson Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Academic Senate, the top UC honor for service at both the systemwide and campus levels. This volume is thus both an oral history of UC Santa Cruz and of the University of California system as a whole and is an invaluable primary resource for those seeking to understand the history of both this unique campus in the redwoods and the intricate political history of the University of California system.

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