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President’s speaker March 21: Author Patricia Pelfrey

If anyone has an insider’s view of the workings of the UC Office of the President, it would be Patricia Pelfrey. In her more than 30 years at UCOP, Pelfrey served as a member of the immediate staff to not one, not two . . . but five UC presidents.

Now a senior research associate at Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), Pelfrey will appear this Thursday, March 21, 12 to 1 p.m. in the Franklin Lobby 1 Conference Room, part of the President’s Speaker Series.

In her talk, entitled “Writing about UC Presidents,” she will discuss her recent book about UC’s 17th president, Entrepreneurial President: Richard Atkinson and the University of California 1995–2003 (UC Press, 2012).

“Atkinson’s administration was a highly eventful one that began with a governance crisis and ended with a spy controversy,” Pelfrey said. “In the course of writing about it, I became increasingly interested in the role of the president, the Office of the President and the history of the university. That’s the context in which I’ll be talking about my book.”

Pelfrey is also co-author (with Margaret Cheney) of A Brief History of the University of California (UC Press, 2004) and editor of The Pursuit of Knowledge: Speeches and Papers of Richard C. Atkinson (UC Press, 2007). She has also authored or co-authored papers on affirmative action, undergraduate admissions, industry–university relationships and other higher education topics.

In Pelfrey’s UCOP years before Atkinson became UC president, she worked under Charles J. Hitch (1968–75), David S. Saxon (1975–83), David P. Gardner (1983–92) and J.W. Peltason (1992–95). Upon her retirement from OP, she was granted the title Assistant to the President Emerita in recognition of her service to the university. She joined the CSHE in 2002.

Pelfrey holds a bachelor’s degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and received an M.A. in English literature from UC Berkeley. She is currently writing her doctoral thesis on early 19th-century ideas about education, learning and the nature of knowledge.

President Mark Yudof initiated the President’s Speaker Series in 2011 to showcase for UCOP staff the talent and public contributions of UC faculty, alumni and other prominent Californians in the areas of education, policy/politics and research.

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