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Eugene Lee


Eugene C. Lee

Professor of Political Science, Emeritus

UC Berkeley


Eugene C. Lee, a leading scholar of California state and local government and former Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, died on April 27, 2011, at the age of 86. Professor Lee’s roots in the city and the University ran deep. He was born in Berkeley on September 19, 1924, and was a Professor in the Political Science Department from 1955 until his retirement in 1989. He received the Berkeley Citation in 1999 for his long and distinguished service to the University.

To an admirable and distinctive degree, Eugene Lee combined teaching, scholarship and public service throughout his academic career. After graduating from UCLA in 1946, he served as Assistant City Manager in San Leandro, California. Five years later, he was encouraged to apply to Berkeley’s Political Science doctoral program by Samuel May, the Founding Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies. Upon completion of his Ph.D., he joined the Political Science Department’s faculty in 1955 and served on the faculty until his retirement. He also held other teaching and administrative posts at University College, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1984-85, Lee was an academic visitor at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy in London.

Professor Lee’s scholarship covered many aspects of California government and university governance. He was ahead of his time in focusing on the impact that direct democracy, especially the popular initiative, had on policy-making and governance. His influential book, the Politics of Nonpartisanship: a Study of California Municipal Elections, brought attention to the understudied process of nonpartisan elections. Lee’s contention that nonpartisan elections led to lower levels of turnout due to the absence of party cues and mobilization contributed to an important scholarly re-evaluation of elections without a partisan ballot. Professor Lee also wrote about federal and state water policy in the West, municipal elections, and intergovernmental relationships in the United States and England.

Apart from his work on California government, a second main area of academic interest was system administration and management. Drawing on his work with Clark Kerr on re-organizing the University of California system, and his two stints of service with the UC Office of the President (including one as Vice-President and Executive Assistant), Professor Lee wrote several books about university governance, including The Multicampus University, Managing Multicampus Systems and The Origins of the Chancellorship: The Buried Report of 1948.

Perhaps his most enduring legacy was the development of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, an interdisciplinary organized research unit dedicated to nonpartisan policy research on California state and local issues. As Director, Lee extended the IGS reach to the state’s policymaking community by sponsoring conferences on statewide issues. This activity, linking the university’s research to the state’s policy makers, led eventually to the establishment of a UC organization dedicated specifically to that purpose, the California Policy Seminar. Under Lee’s leadership, the IGS also created a statewide data center and organized briefings for newly elected members of the state’s Congressional delegation, a project that resulted in Lee’s appointment as a bipartisan consultant to the delegation.

At the same time, Lee nurtured the Institute’s long standing interest in local and regional government, publishing research on metropolitan governance in the Bay Area and beyond US borders. One of those reports played a critical role in the creation of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Also during Lee’s tenure, IGS initiated a series of seminars on California art and culture, automated the catalogue records of the IGS Library, developed two public television programs on important public issues, and published major research projects on issues such as the ethics of intensive care for newborns, the impact of Proposition 13, and rural growth patterns and economic development.

All of this activity resulted in robust financial growth for the Institute. Annual funding of IGS programs increased under Lee’s leadership from $267,000 to $1.8 million. Lee also played an instrumental role in acquiring a $2.7 million bequest from the late Professor Joseph Harris, inventor of the Harris Votomatic voting machine. To this day, the resulting Harris Endowment continues to play a critical role in supporting IGS programs. Even after his retirement, and shortly before his death, Professor Lee continued to attend IGS events and seminars.

Eugene Lee also had a distinguished record of public service. He was the first chairman of the Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy (“The Little Hoover Commission”), and served as a director of the Trust for Public Land and the Cal-Tax Foundation. His low key style and insightful advice perfectly suited him for the critical roles he played in the university and state government.

Lee is survived by his wife Joanne Hurley, son Douglas Edwin Lee, daughter Nancy Gale Lee, daughter-in-law Susan Gahry, son-in-law Anoush Zebarjadian, and grandchildren Alexandra Lee and Morgan Lee.


Bruce Cain