Gerth Biography

Dr. Donald R. & Beverly J. Gerth

Donald and Beverly Gerth

Life and Early Career

Dr. Donald R. Gerth, former President of California State University Dominguez Hills, was born in Chicago in 1928. After attending Chicago Public Schools. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Chicago at the age of 18 in 1947, and received his Masters degree in political science in 1951. While earning his M.A., he served as a Field Representative in Southeast Asia for the World University Service for one year, and also as assistant to the President at Shimer College. In 1952 Gerth was commissioned as a Southeast Asian specialist in the U.S. Air Force. He also served as lecturer in history at the University of the Philippines. In 1955, he married Beverly J. Hollman. In 1956 he was discharged from the Air Force as a Captain.

Between 1956 and 1958, Gerth completed his PhD studies in political science at the University of Chicago, earning his PhD in 1963 upon the completion of his dissertation entitled "The Government of Public Higher Education in California". During this period, he served the University as Admissions Counselor and Assistant to the Director of Admissions.

Gerth began his career with the California State Colleges System in 1958 when he was appointed Associate Dean of Students for Admissions and Records and government instructor at San Francisco State College. He provided staff support on admissions issues for the group that shaped the California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1959-1960. After completing his dissertation, Dr. Gerth was appointed Deputy Dean for Institutional Relations and Student Affairs for the California State Colleges System and served as staff representative to the Coordinating Council for Higher Education committee. This assignment was followed by twelve years (1964-1976) in several roles at Chico State College, in the faculty as well as administration. In addition, Dr. Gerth served on several task forces starting in 1965, concerning issues like fiscal responsibility, international education, foreign student programs, admissions, and relationships with other California colleges and universities.

Dr. Gerth’s wife Beverly Gerth’s role as philanthropist, partner, host, and university supporter is well-known throughout the CSU. They have two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Mid Career: CSU Presidential Appointments

In 1976 Dr. Gerth was appointed as the second President of California State University Dominguez Hills (1976-1984). At Dominguez Hills, Gerth brought the Olympic Velodrome to the campus during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, and worked to stabilize the young university. In 1984 Dr. Gerth was appointed President of California State University Sacramento (1984-2003). At Sacramento he established the Center for California Studies. By the time of his retirement he was highly respected internationally and nationally as the "Dean of CSU Presidents."

Outside of service to the CSU, Dr. Gerth has been actively engaged in promoting civic endeavors. In 1995 Dr. Gerth chaired the United Way Board of Directors and in 1996, became Founding Chair of the Northern California World Trade Center. From 1996 to 1999, Dr. Gerth served as president of the International Association of University Presidents. In addition to several other international contributions, Dr. Gerth also served as a member of the governing board of the United Nations University. In 2000, the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce named Dr. Gerth Sacramentan of the Year. In 2001, Dr. Garth was honored for outstanding contributions to the arts by the Arts and Business Council and in the next year was honored by World Trade Centers for distinguished service.

Scholarly Works

Dr. Gerth has written numerous articles and papers on public policy affecting higher education, and is co-author and editor of An Invisible Giant, a title concerning the formative years of the California State University. In 2010, Gerth published The People’s University: A History of the California State University. This monograph documents the unique contributions of the California State Universities to the state and the nation. 

Throughout his career Dr. Gerth has been a champion of archives. In addition to helping establish and grow the CSUDH Archives, he helped establish the CSU Systemwide Archives that houses the records of the CSU System, located at CSUDH.

CSU Archives Dedication Plaque
In this September 1979 photograph, CSU Chancellor Glenn Dumke presents former CSU Board Chair Louis Heilbron the CSU Archives Plaque. Seated on the left are CSUDH President Donald Gerth and former Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown. CSU Board Chair John O’Connell is seated on the right. Ceremony was held in the CSUDH Library, which houses the CSU Archives. Photo courtesy of the California State University Dominguez Hills Photograph Collection, Donald R. & Beverly J. Gerth Archives at California State University Dominguez Hills.