The Center for California Studies mourns the passing of Dr. Kevin Starr, who died last weekend at age 76. Dr. Starr spent a lifetime in public service, serving in the military, academia, and government. He was a renowned history professor (most recently at the University of Southern California) and had spent a decade as the California State Librarian. He was also the author of a magisterial series of eight books about California. “Americans and the California Dream,” as the series was called, described not simply California history, but the social forces and cultural developments that shaped the Golden State and its inhabitants over the years. He was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2010. If ever there were a person who embodied “California Studies,” it was he.
Dr. Starr had strong and important connections to the Center for California Studies. He was on the keynote panel of the Center’s third annual Envisioning California conference, held in 1991. He also gave the keynote address at the 16th and 23rd annual conferences in 2004 and 2012. He was an honored guest at other Center functions and a fixture within the world of California studies.
The field of California studies owes an enormous debt to Kevin Starr. A state’s social and political progress begins with self-examination and reflection, and understanding a state as complex as ours takes considerable effort. Fortunately for us, Dr. Starr leaves a legacy that enriches our understanding and inspires us to build on his work.