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Jack W. Peltason, former president of UC system, dies at 91

Jack W. Peltason, former president of UC system, dies at 91
UC President Jack Peltason addresses a meeting of the Board of Regents in 1995. Peltason, who was chancellor of UC Irvine from 1984 to 1992, has died at the age of 91. (Dwayne Newton / Associated Press)

Jack W. Peltason, a constitutional scholar and a former chancellor of UC Irvine who was president of the University of California system for three years in the 1990s, died Saturday, UC Irvine announced.

Peltason, 91, had Parkinson's disease.

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Peltason was associated with UC Irvine starting in 1963, before the campus even opened. As the school's first dean of the College of Arts, Letters and Science, he recruited faculty for the fledgling institution and helped plan its initial disciplines. When classes started in 1965, he became vice chancellor of academic affairs.

Born Aug. 29, 1923, in St. Louis, Peltason received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri and started his teaching career at Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

In 1967, he was chosen as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a post he held for 10 years before taking the presidency of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.

In 1984, Peltason returned to UC Irvine as its second chancellor and served for eight years, overseeing rapid growth in the university's physical plant and in its enrollment.

Peltason was appointed president of the UC system in 1992, during a period of economic strain that required controversial budget and staff cuts. He also had to manage bitter political conflict as UC regents rejected the university's established affirmative action practices.

Peltason stressed the need for increased access to higher education, and, in that spirit, helped pick Merced as the site of the university's 10th campus. "The best affirmative action is expansion," he said.

His survivors include his wife Suzanne; children Nancy, Timothy and Jill; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A full Times obituary appears at www.latimes.com/obits.

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