Friends, family and colleagues gathered at Boalt Hall on April 8 in a tribute celebrating the life of renowned Professor Adrian Kragen ’34. A legendary Boalt professor, distinguished expert in tax law and dedicated Cal alumnus, Kragen died on March 25 at the age of 97.
Kragen, who served as the Shannon Cecil Turner Professor of Law, gave up a lucrative law practice in Hollywood in 1952 to teach at his alma mater. Kragen argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, co-authored a leading textbook on taxation, drafted legislation and published widely in professional journals.
From 1940 to 1944, Kragen served as California deputy attorney general under attorney general and then governor Earl Warren ’14. The son of a San Francisco furniture manufacturer, Kragen was the first in his family to attend college. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1931 and was inspired to pursue law by Boalt professor and future California Supreme Court Justice Roger Traynor ’27.
He served as vice chancellor of the Berkeley campus from 1960 to 1964 and continued teaching at Boalt until 1994, when he retired at the age of 87. A devoted alumnus and an avid fan of Cal athletics, Kragen served on many Academic Senate committees, as chair of the UCB Emeriti Association, on the Boalt Hall Capital Campaign Committee and on the Bear Backers Council. He helped create Camp Blue, a family camp for Cal alumni; and was instrumental in the development of the UC Berkeley Retirement Center. Kragen received many awards, including the California Alumni Association’s Alumnus of the Year award in 1998, the Berkeley Citation in 1973 and Boalt Hall’s Citation Award in 1972.
Kragen’s wife, Billie, died in 1987. He is survived by his son, Ken; daughter, Robin Merritt; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Donations may be made in his name to the Boalt Hall Fund, 303 Law Building, Berkeley, Calif. 94720-7200.
In an affectionate tribute that opened with a trumpeter’s rendition of the Cal fight song, friends, family and colleagues gathered at Boalt Hall on April 8 to celebrate the life of renowned Professor Adrian Kragen ’34. Kragen, a distinguished tax expert who left a lucrative Hollywood law practice in 1952 to teach at his alma mater, died on March 25 at the age of 97.
“Please feel free to applaud and laugh,” said his son, Ken Kragen, who donned his father’s trademark green eyeshade before sharing some favorite recollections. “This is a celebration–a celebration of a wonderful, wonderful life,” he said.
Kragen described his father’s decision more than a half century ago to take a substantial salary cut in private practice to accept a faculty position at the law school. The move, Ken Kragen said, was a potent message about the importance of pursuing dreams over financial reward.
Professor Emeritus Babette Barton ’54, who was a member of Kragen’s first class of students, described Kragen’s penchant for illustrating legal issues with cases involving such glamorous clients as Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant. “It wasn’t just name-dropping,” said Barton, who went on to become the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law. “It was pedagogical genius to just make that class come alive.”
The celebration also honored Kragen in a song and a poem penned by grandson Kevin Merritt and granddaughter Emma Kragen, respectively; along with reminiscences by former student and California Alumni Association President David Flinn ’63, longtime friend and physician Dr. Robert Albo, and son-in-law Bob Merritt ’66.
Speakers described Kragen’s integrity, his deep love for his late wife, Billie, and family, and his devotion to the university and Boalt. “Adrian Kragen held a very special position here at the law school,” said Flinn. An avid fan of Cal sports, Kragen was the faculty liaison to the Athletic Department and also served as vice chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.
He helped create Camp Blue, a family camp for Cal alumni, and was instrumental in founding the UC Berkeley Retirement Center. Early in his career, Kragen served as California deputy attorney general under future Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren ’14. Kragen, who became the Shannon Cecil Turner Professor of Law, taught at Boalt until 1994, when he retired at the age of 87.
In a fitting farewell, the Boalt gathering joined a yell leader in a resounding cheer that spelled out Kragen’s first name and then stood to sing “Hail to California.”