William Bache Fretter; Physicist Spent Half-Century Working in UC System

William Bache Fretter, physicist, vice president emeritus of the University of California system and a former chairman of the UC Academic Senate, has died in Berkeley.

Fretter, who began a half-century association with the UC system as a $30-a-month reader, was 74 when he died Sunday of respiratory complications.

He also had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Fretter served as top aide to former UC President David Saxon from 1978 to 1983 and co-authored a textbook with him.

A distinguished scientist whose research into cosmic ray physics was once praised by J. Robert Oppenheimer, Fretter taught at UC Berkeley for 32 years before moving into the executive offices.

He served as dean of the College of Letters and Science in addition to heading the Academic Senate in the late 1970s.


Fretter won two Fulbright Scholarships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1964, he was named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor for his 20-year association with Paris’ Ecole Polytechnique under an exchange program.

After retiring as vice president, he was involved with a World Bank project to revitalize Chinese universities devastated by the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

Survivors include his wife, Grace, three children and six grandchildren.