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Louis H. Heilbron (1907-2007) Was First CSU Board of Trustees Chair, Helped CSUDH Grow

 

 

Louis H. Heilbron (1907-2007) spoke to the first CSUDH graduating class of four; photo courtesy of Archives and Special Collections

Louis H. Heilbron (1907-2007) Was First CSU Board of Trustees Chair, Helped CSUDH Grow

He was... not only a builder of what we now know as the California State University but a creator of the CSU and its spirit and values.
- Donald Gerth, former CSUDH president (1976-1984)
 

Louis H. Heilbron, an attorney who served as the first chairman of the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees, died on Dec. 20 in San Francisco at the age of 99.

The San Francisco attorney was appointed by Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown in 1960, after having served as president of the state Board of Education. Until that time, the Board had oversight for what was then only 15 colleges. That year, Heilbron supported the creation of the system’s newest addition, South Bay State College (SBSC), which became California State College, Dominguez Hills (CSCDH) in 1966.

As chair of the Board, he was instrumental in the selection of the college’s final site and in naming the institution’s first
president, Leo F. Cain, a former vice president from San Francisco State University. When governor-elect Ronald Reagan proposed a halt to site acquisition and construction, the imposition of tuition, financial cuts, and a freeze on hiring, Heilbron led the charge to save the young college from disbanding. In 1977, the California Postsecondary Education Commission endorsed the Board’s action, changing CSCDH to California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH).

According to former CSUDH president Donald Gerth (1976-1984), Heilbron’s service on the Board was during a time of great growth and change in the CSU.

“The GI Bill after World War II began to create more awareness of the economic, social, cultural, and political importance of investing in people and their education,” he says. “Those in California who were far-seeing, and that certainly included Louis Heilbron, Glenn Dumke (former CSU Chancellor), Clark Kerr (the newly appointed president of the University of California system), and others understood this.”

Heilbron was born in 1907, in Newark, NJ. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at UC Berkeley, following it with a law degree three years later. He married Delphine Rosenblatt, a fellow student on Oct. 30, 1929, a day after the stock market crashed.

During the Depression, Heilbron worked for the state Department of Public Welfare, and became secretary of the Social Welfare Commission. At the age of 25, he helped to establish the California Relief Administration. During WWII, he volunteered to join the Army, and was sent to supervise the rehabilitation of Austria’s social security system and develop labor standards in 1944. His labor negotiation skills were particularly useful later, when he was instrumental in helping to end a CSU teachers’ strike in 1969. He also called on nonviolent students and teachers to condemn violent demonstrations and actions on university campuses across the nation that occurred during that era.

“Louis Heilbron was a key player in the formulation of the CSU Master Plan,” says Gerth, “during the formative stages of the Master Plan and before there was any Board of Trustees to be the chair of. He was, in my judgment, not only a builder of what we now know as the California State University but a creator of the CSU and its spirit and values.”

On June 10, 1967, Heilbron delivered the commencement address to CSCDH’s first graduating class. After describing the numerous obstacles that the graduates were about to face by leaving college life during a year of political and social unrest, he sent them off this message.

“The greatest instruments for the achievement of peace and remedy of wrongs are those which have been placed in your hands,” he said, “moderation and reason, the disciplined, humane voice of a liberal education… It is a parlous time, but as the young and strong always say in moments of crisis, it’s as good a time as any to begin.”

Heilbron was preceded in death by his wife in 1993. He is survived by two sons, John Heilbron of Oxfordshire, England and David Heilbron of Tiburon, CA; a sister, Juliette Krasne of San Francisco; and three granddaughters.

- Joanie Harmon-Whetmore

 

 

 
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Last updated Monday, January 15, 2007, 5:20 p.m., by Joanie Harmon-Whetmore