It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Ira Michael Heyman, Chancellor of UC Berkeley from 1980 to 1990 and Professor Emeritus at Berkeley Law, where he had been a faculty member since 1959. He passed away on Saturday at the age of 81. A tremendously wise, kind, and generous soul, Professor Heyman was one of Berkeley’s first land use and environmental law professors and taught property at Boalt until 2004. He leaves a legacy of more than five decades of leadership and service.
As Chancellor of UC Berkeley, Heyman was a fearless advocate for affirmative action and model of leadership in times of protest and crisis. He led a campus-wide increase in the number of undergraduate students of color, from 21 to 57 percent, a complex replacement of aging research facilities, and a more than threefold expansion in giving by private donors. He believed that Berkeley should be second to none and open to all, a vision that continues today through Berkeley’s motto, “Access and Excellence.”
As a law professor, Heyman was a pioneer in his field who thrived on opposing views and thoughtful debate. He taught property and land use law from 1959 onward, and emphasized the need for lawyers to work with other disciplines such as urban planning. He taught two of Berkeley Law’s very first environmental law courses, in 1972 and 1973, and went on to establish the methodology for land-use planning for ecosystems that has been used across the nation.
After serving as Chancellor, Heyman became Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution from 1994 to 2000 and served on the Board of Directors of the Presidio Trust, among several other organizations. In October of last year, the law school established the I. Michael Heyman Distinguished Professorship Chair and named the school’s new west patio the I. Michael Heyman Terrace, in his honor.
Professor Heyman remained engaged with Berkeley Law until his final days. I sat down with him just three weeks ago and was struck by his sincerity, thoughtfulness, and good spirit.
Berkeley Law Professor Emeritus Joe Sax shared these words of reflection:
Mike was a very good friend to me and a pioneer in bringing an environmental dimension to land use law. He was ahead of his time and a model for many of us who built on his work. I knew him for many years and I shall greatly miss him.
Berkeley Law Professor Peter Menell reflected on Mike’s “remarkable personal qualities — larger than life in stature and accomplishments, yet always learning, challenging himself, and treating others with the utmost respect.”
If you would like to share your memories of Professor Heyman, please leave a comment here or email me directly. We will be creating a page on the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment website in his memory. If you would like to make a memorial gift, you can do so here.
Our condolences go out to his family, friends, and the community which will miss him so dearly.