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Angus Taylor


Angus E. Taylor

Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, Berkeley and Los Angeles

Vice President-Academic Affairs

University Provost, Emeritus

Chancellor, Emeritus, Santa Cruz



Angus Taylor said that he had three passions: mathematics, mountains, and his wife, Patsy. To this, in view of his long, distinguished and varied career of academic and administrative leadership, we would add his devotion to scholarly values and to the University of California. Several members of this committee observed first-hand his joy in being in the mountains: one committee member accompanied him on a trail-hike to the summit of Mount Whitney; another met Angus and his two sons as they were descending from their climb of the North Palisade; and his written report of a 1961 sabbatical leave in the Swiss Alps offers testimony to the deep affinity he felt to the mountains and their peaceful challenge. He scaled a number of Alpine peaks at that time.


Angus Taylor graduated from Harvard University (summa cum laude) in 1933, then earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at California Institute of Technology, where he taught for two years. Taylor was appointed instructor in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1938. During World War II, he served in operations analysis projects at UCLA and also, from 1944 to 1945 while on leave of absence, with the U.S. Army Air Force. He advanced to assistant professor (1940), associate professor (1942), and full professor (1944). While teaching an overloaded wartime schedule, he and his colleague Professor G. E. F. Sherwood published in 1942 a calculus text that became a welcome standard for students for many years. This textbook went through three successful editions before it went out of print in 1978.


Several colleagues in mathematics (in particular, Professor Philip Curtis and Professor William Bade) recall Angus Taylor's originality of mind in mathematical analysis and his encouragement of graduate students in their own contributions. He was a lifelong believer in the essential linkages between teaching and research as conditions of faculty life. His own work in mathematics focused on spectral theory, to which he directed a continuing flow of his graduate students for their thesis research. He later studied the history of functional analysis and wrote a monograph on that subject, after doing research on the work of the French mathematician Frechet during a sabbatical leave in Paris.


Taylor served as chair of the Department of Mathematics at UCLA during the period 1958 to 1964 – when the number of faculty in that department grew from 38 to 55, requiring preparation of extensive materials on every case under the University's system of exacting review of appointments and promotions. His own research prospered, a total of 45 research papers and six books on important aspects of mathematical analysis.


As a University citizen, Taylor was soon drawn into administrative and policy matters, commencing with his service in 1952 on the contentious issue of planning a new building at UCLA for mathematics, astronomy and meteorology. In the 1950s, also, he served on the Academic Senate's Committee on Educational Policy, which at that time had representatives both from the northern and southern sections of the Senate. In that capacity, Taylor had early experience in dealing with the academic and planning issues of the University's expansion, both at existing campuses and in new ones, in response to California's rapid population growth. He also became acquainted with Clark Kerr, who in 1958 succeeded Robert Gordon Sproul as president of the University.


In 1963-1964, Angus Taylor was chair of the statewide Academic Assembly and Academic Council of the Senate. This drew him into the efforts to formulate the University's responses to demands of the Free Speech Movement (FSM) at the Berkeley campus. Clark Kerr refers to Angus Taylor as "one of the giants of the Academic Senate." At the December 1964 meeting of the Regents, Angus Taylor spoke for the Academic Senate and helped to carry the day as he gave calm and persuasive explanation of the proposed solution. As Clark Kerr states it, "...the 'free speech' crisis involved the demands by activist students and faculty that the campus could be used for political action, including the raising of funds and the recruiting of participants for off-campus political activities, involving some activities intended to be illegal. This had long been treated as not permitted on campuses of the University. This issue became an item of hot dispute at the time of the civil rights movement in the fall of 1964. Mass demonstrations took place.


"The conflict reached a crisis at the December 1964 meeting of the Board of Regents in Los Angeles. A solution was on the agenda of the Board of Regents. This solution involved the acceptance of such activity but with the provision that discipline of prohibited activities (would) remain in the hands of the Board of Regents and that activities which involved conspiracy, defamation, pornography, and actions that threatened 'clear and present danger', were prohibited. The students and faculty political activists involved were opposed to these limitations. At the same time, conservative Regents wanted severe penalties for prior unapproved activities. Angus Taylor became critically involved in the solution. The solution involved getting faculty leaders to accept the compromise, leaving student leaders without faculty support, and getting conservative regents to withdraw from insistence on aggressive penalties.... Finally, faced by Angus representing the total faculty of the University, the conservative regents acceded to the solution.... Conciliation had been successful over confrontation, and Angus was absolutely essential among the conciliators. His effort not only helped to bring about a crucial solution within the University, but it also brought a victory for the 1963 policy of faculty participation within the Board of Regents—a great triumph for the policy of shared governance."


In later years, Taylor wrote his memoir, Speaking Freely (Institute of Governmental Studies Press, Berkeley, 2000), which gives a detailed portrayal of his professional life and involvements up to the time of his appointment in August 1965 as vice president for academic affairs in the University's central administration. He had gained the confidence of leaders among the Regents, as well as President Kerr. The role of this vice presidential position was to oversee academic personnel policies and relations with the Academic Senate. Taylor served in this capacity through the presidencies of Kerr, Harry Wellman (acting, 1967), and Charles Hitch (1968-75). Taylor's monograph, The Academic Senate of the University of California (Institute of Governmental Studies Press, Berkeley, 1998) brings up to date and elaborates the reach of the Academic Senate's formal and informal authority. It also provides detailed commentaries on matters for which the involvement of the Academic Senate was essential, including new guidelines for the initiation and conduct of experimental courses (1969), and the development of a faculty code of conduct (1971, 1974).


With David Saxon's appointment as president in 1975, Angus Taylor became University provost with the intention that he would work on academic planning. This role was soon superseded, when President Saxon called on Angus Taylor in November 1975 to visit the Santa Cruz campus of the University, where there was widespread dissatisfaction with the leadership of Chancellor Mark Christensen. Taylor attended a meeting of the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate, at which there was an impasse concerning Christensen's proposals for changing the relationships between the boards of studies (the UC Santa Cruz equivalent of academic departments) and the nine individual colleges. Repeated consultations concerning the situation at UC Santa Cruz resulted in the departure of Christensen in January 1976 and Angus Taylor's appointment as acting chancellor, to take charge of the campus administration. He was soon after made chancellor and continued in that capacity until June 1977.


When he assumed his new duties, several major administrative areas were in a bad state and required prompt changes of personnel and other corrective actions. Student admissions processing had gone awry, with a large backlog of uncompleted work. UC Santa Cruz, having been a very popular student destination at first, had faced declines in applications for several years, so that efficient and prompt response to applications was especially important. Overhaul of administrative assignments and better coordination were urgently needed, but a student sit-in based on other grievances complicated the task. Chancellor Taylor surmounted the administrative crisis and dealt in a patient yet firm fashion with the sit-in. He reorganized the student affairs functions, and he brought in a new administrator.


Equally important was the need to improve academic personnel administration. As an acknowledged expert in the University's policies and procedures for faculty appointment, appraisal and promotion, Chancellor Taylor was on firm ground in taking on this function himself. But there was a cluster of issues concerning the relationships at UC Santa Cruz between the colleges and the boards of studies. Built into the original campus design was a commitment to have a significant portion (originally, 50 percent) of faculty positions controlled by the colleges and to have the colleges offer some courses in-house.


Conflict over control of faculty appointments and course assignments was, in effect, built into the initial academic design of the campus. Many courses that would be given as high-enrollment courses at other University campuses were organized small-scale at UC Santa Cruz. Higher cost of operation than at a conventional University campus was all but inevitable, unless offsetting economies could be found, yet UC Santa Cruz was committed to operate within the same budgetary guidelines as other campuses. As chancellor, Taylor focused upon the basics of academic efficiency at UC Santa Cruz.


Chancellor Taylor and Patsy, his wife, also maintained a substantial schedule of social functions: he had numerous informal luncheons with small groups of faculty or staff, and the Taylors together had dinners for friends and supporters from the regional community. These social contacts helped to rebuild confidence within the faculty and also with the surrounding community.


Angus Taylor's greatest contribution to UC Santa Cruz, undoubtedly, was his success in restoring a sense of strength and integrity to the office of chancellor and to the administration of the UC Santa Cruz campus. Karl Pister, a successor chancellor twice removed at UC Santa Cruz, notes that Angus Taylor offered advice and counsel that he could count on. He also says that "Angus left to the Campus a legacy of love and respect for him and Patsy."


In his very active personal life, Angus Taylor maintained wide intellectual curiosity – a taste for philosophy, literature and history, as well as his private writing (never published) of poetry. He inquired regularly of colleagues about new books and other sources for subjects of interest. Taylor also kept a daily journal all of his life; his memoir, his monograph on the Academic Senate, and his oral history were written when he was already in his eighties. They reflect an extraordinary grasp of the details of many events in which he was a key participant. He cherished the act of writing.



Frederick Balderston, Berkeley

J. Herman Blake, Santa Cruz

Philip Curtis, Los Angeles

John Dizikes, Santa Cruz

Clark Kerr, Berkeley

Karl S. Pister, Berkeley and Santa Cruz