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Brenda Drake


Brenda Jackson Drake has a distinguished career in education, the law, the arts and community service. Drake has worked as a lawyer, foundation executive, community advocate and university ambassador in California and in Ohio. A graduate of Stanford University and the UC Berkeley School of Law, she practiced corporate law in the Bay Area before working as a foundation executive, developing grant-making programs focused on women’s health, education, arts, the elderly and poverty. She later returned to the practice of law, focusing on public health and the environment. Devoted to advancing higher education, she is a strong partner to her husband, Dr. Michael Drake who serves as the 21st president of the University of California, and a passionate advocate for the arts.


Drake has served on the boards of numerous organizations focused on education, international women’s health, finance, civil rights and the arts. She currently serves on the board of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).


She and her husband have two sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren. 


In Conversation with Brenda Drake


Greatest influences that shaped your career?
When I was 19 and a sophomore in college, I had lunch with a mentor who was an on-air reporter at our local NBC station. While discussing my plans for the future, she suggested I consider attending law school and focusing on communications law, which she was sure would be a more stable career than being a journalist. I did and am grateful to have had a varied career as a lawyer, grantmaker, museum director, and non-profit board member. 


Passions, joys, and causes that drive you?
I am passionate about the arts and arts education. To me, this includes music, dance, painting, crafts, gardening, and all endeavors that require and reflect creativity, beauty, and intellectual engagement. The causes that drive me include women’s rights, social justice, and the right of everyone to health, education, and safety.


The relevance and role of arts education in today’s world?
Art challenges us to think, to communicate our desires, and experience our emotions. It invites us to relate in a visceral way to the world around us. Art gives meaning and richness to our lives. A world without art is not a world that I would want my grandchildren or any child to live in.


What’s exciting to you about the vision and mission of UCSC’s Arts Division? 
I am impressed by the myriad issues the UCSC Arts Division plans to address and transform through education in arts production and scholarship. I will do whatever I can to encourage the Dean and to support the vision and the mission of the Arts Division.