New: Catherine 'Kay' Kerr, 1911-2010

From the University of California Press Office
Friday December 24, 2010 - 10:06:00 AM

Catherine "Kay" Kerr, a dedicated environmentalist and widow of Clark Kerr, the 12th president of the University of California system, died Friday (Dec. 18). She was 99. 


Kerr died peacefully at her home in El Cerrito surrounded by her loving family. 


In 1961, Kerr co-founded the Save San Francisco Bay Association, which later became Save the Bay. Kerr was dismayed by a plan by the city of Berkeley to fill in part of the bay, so she teamed with Sylvia McLaughlin, wife of UC Regent Donald McLaughlin, and Esther Gulick, wife of UC Berkeley economics professor Charles Gulick, to start one of the first modern grassroots environmental movements. 


Save the Bay helped to successfully lobby the California Legislature to enact the McAteer-Petris Act in 1965, which placed a moratorium on filling in the bay. The law also created the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to regulate and plan for long-term use of the Bay 


"Mrs. Kerr was an extraordinary woman, a devoted counselor and partner to her husband, Clark Kerr, and a dedicated environmentalist, who throughout her long life earned the deep respect and admiration of all who knew her or knew of her," UC President Mark Yudof said in a letter sent to the UC Board of Regents informing them of Kerr's passing. 


Kerr was born on March 22, 1911 and graduated from Stanford University. 


Clark Kerr and the former Catherine Spaulding met at a youth peace conference in Los Angeles in 1934 where it was rumored that communists were going to try to take over the meeting. The pair was seated on stage next to each other and she passed him a note, "Are you a communist?" He wrote back, "No." She wrote back, "Nor am I." They were married that year on Christmas Day. 


Clark Kerr, who died in 2003 at 92, was the chief architect of California's Master Plan for Higher Education, which has guided the state public colleges and universities for 50 years and served as a model for universities around the world. He served as chancellor at UC Berkeley from 1952 to 1958 and was the president of the University of California system from 1958 to 1967. 


Kay Kerr is survived by three children: daughter Caroline Gage of El Cerrito and sons Clark E. Kerr of Danville and Alexander W. Kerr of Australia; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 


No memorial services have been announced. The family requests that donations in Kerr's name be made to Save the Bay, 350 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 900, Oakland, CA 94612;, (510) 452-9261.