Jack W. Peltason, a University of California emeritus president, UC Irvine emeritus chancellor and namesake of a road that snakes around UCI, died Saturday after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 91.
Peltason was born Aug. 29, 1923, in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Missouri (where he met and married Suzanne Toll), began his early teaching career at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and continued with administrative responsibilities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
His first stint at UCI began in 1963, before the campus opened, approving plans for the initial disciplines to be offered and for recruiting faculty as dean of the College of Arts, Letters and Science. After classes began in 1965, he was vice chancellor of Academic Affairs.
Peltason was pulled back to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he served as chancellor from 1967 to 1977. Afterward he became the chief spokesman for higher education in 1977 when he was named president of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.
In 1984, Peltason returned to UCI as its second chancellor and for the next eight years oversaw rapid physical growth and expansion of the campus, student enrollment increases, increased funding for endowed chairs, housing the UC Humanities Research Institute and attracting the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering to build their western center on campus. He also instrumental in founding the UCI Executive Roundtable of corporate partners, creating the UCI Medal to recognize contributions of both university and community members, and negotiating an agreement with the Irvine Co. that led to the University Research Park.
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He was tapped for a larger role in higher education in 1992, when he was inaugurated as 16th president of the University of California, serving for three years. After his retirement, he was founding chair of the leadership council for UCI's Center for the Study of Democracy and emeritus professor of political science; became president of The Donald Bren Foundation; and served on the boards of the Archstone Foundation, The Irvine Health Foundation, The Irvine Barclay Theatre, the Kavli Foundation and Kavli Institute, and Soka University of America.
An internationally recognized political scientist and scholar of constitutional law, Peltason was the principal author of Government by the People, a fundamental text on American democracy for political science students. University of California President Janet Napolitano presented him with the President's Medal, the university's highest honor, last year.
He is survived by his wife Suzanne, children Nancy, Timothy and Jill, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.