In Memory of a UB President

Martin Meyerson, 10th president, presided during tumultuous times

President Martin M. Meyerson

Martin M. Meyerson, UB’s president from 1966 to 1969 who oversaw an academic reorganization of the university and the groundbreaking for the North Campus, died of prostate cancer June 2, 2007, in Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia. He was 84.

Meyerson was selected to be UB’s 10th president in 1966 after serving as acting chancellor at the University of California-Berkeley during the height of student unrest there. His tenure at UB also was one in which the campus experienced a similar period of unrest.

Among Meyerson’s accomplishments at UB was the reorganization of the university’s loose system of independent schools and colleges into seven academic faculties—Arts and Letters, Educational Studies, Engineering and Applied Science, Health Sciences, Law and Jurisprudence, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Social Science and Administration.

During his tenure, UB also established the School of Architecture and Environmental Design, now the School of Architecture and Planning; created the seven experimental colleges that offered integrated “living-and-learning environments” focused on a specific theme; and purchased the Darwin D. Martin House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, as the home for the university president.

The planning and groundbreaking for the North Campus in Amherst took place under his watch, although deadlock between the construction industry, labor and minority groups delayed the actual construction of the campus until the early 1970s.

Born in New York City, Meyerson received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in urban planning from Harvard University. He began his academic career at the University of Chicago, and later taught at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. He joined the Berkeley faculty in 1963 as professor of urban development and dean of the College of Environmental Design. He served as acting chancellor of the university from January to July 1965 during the “free speech” movement, and is credited with helping to defuse much of the tension between students and the Berkeley administration.

Meyerson left UB in 1969 to become president of the University of Pennsylvania, serving in that capacity from 1970 to 1981. After retiring as president, he remained active at Penn as a faculty member and as chair of the University of Pennsylvania Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania Press, the Institute for Research on Higher Education and the Monell Chemical Senses Center. He also cochaired, with his wife, Margy, Penn’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1990.