Glenn S. Dumke, who as chancellor of the California State University system melded 16 separate schools into a unified system during its greatest two decades of tumult and growth, has died at his home in Los Angeles. He was 72.
Dumke, chancellor from 1961 to 1982, died of a heart attack Thursday night, a spokesman for the university system announced Friday.
“This is a very sad loss for everyone in higher education,” said the current chancellor, W. Ann Reynolds, who succeeded Dumke when he retired in 1982.
“Glenn Dumke did something that many people thought was impossible: He organized 16 separate universities into a single system that has become a model across the nation. It was a remarkable accomplishment and it happened because Dr. Dumke was a visionary leader.
“He was respected by everyone who knew him,” Reynolds added, “and he will be greatly missed.”
As president of San Francisco State in the late 1950s, Dumke helped draft and remained a chief spokesman for “The Master Plan for Higher Education in California.”
The plan became the blueprint for the state’s two-track University of California and State University (originally State Colleges) system and a model for other systems of higher education throughout the nation and the world.
In 1961, as vice chancellor of academic affairs and then as chancellor, Dumke forged the once separate campuses into a viable system with unified academic goals and standards and lobbying clout with the state Legislature.
During his tenure, the system grew from 16 to 19 campuses and enrollment tripled, reaching 319,000 by his retirement.
(Although the New York college system is larger, it includes both junior and senior schools; California is the largest senior system in the country in both campuses and student population.)
A conservative, Dumke became known as a political survivor because of his ability to get along with both the conservative and liberal boards of trustees appointed by Democratic Govs. Edmund G. Brown Sr. and Jr. and Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan.
He muted the protests of continuing budget cutbacks under Gov. Reagan, and by doing so, many believe, enabled the State University to fare better than the University of California, whose officials were more outspoken in their objections.
Dumke vociferously opposed militant student and faculty protests against the Vietnam War and tuition and fee increases when those protests flared at San Francisco State and other campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But, again demonstrating his political skill, few students were expelled and few faculty members fired during his tenure.
When he announced his plans to retire on his 65th birthday, a year in advance to give trustees time for a nationwide search for his successor, Dumke jokingly told news reporters that the position required “someone who can walk on water.”
Born in Green Bay, Wis., in 1917, Dumke moved to California in 1923. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Occidental College and his doctorate at UCLA. During his education career, he garnered nine honorary doctoral degrees from universities throughout the country.
Dumke taught history at Occidental beginning in 1940 and eventually became dean of the Occidental faculty before leaving for the San Francisco State presidency in 1957.
Remained a Historian
He remained a historian until his death, writing textbooks during his teaching career and historical novels as a hobby during his years in administration and retirement.
“I have always felt in teaching history that the best kind of supplemental reading was the biographical novel of the kind Irving Stone writes,” Dumke told a Times writer in 1986 after the publication of his fifth novel.
“You can arouse people’s interest in history without warping it or wrenching it out of shape,” he said. “I think people turn against history because it’s often so poorly written and poorly taught. I don’t think history is a social science. It’s a humanity. It’s an art.”
An expert on western U.S. history, Dumke wrote three Westerns. He wrote three other novels centered on Haroun-el-Rashid (the one-time Caliph of Baghdad), England’s King Richard III and Benedict Arnold.
He wrote under the names Jordan Allen and Glenn Pierce.
After his retirement in 1982, Dumke served as president of a San Diego-based think tank called the Foundation for the Twenty-First Century. Among his national awards were the USO Distinguished American Award and the George Washington Honor Medal of the Freedom Foundation for his contributions to education and to history.
Dumke is survived by his wife, Dorothy.
Services will be at the Church of the Recessional, Forest Lawn in Glendale, at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Historical Society of Southern California.