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UC Merced supporter Leo Kolligian dies at 90

Former University of California regent and UC Merced supporter Leo Kolligian died Thursday morning in Fresno from leukemia. He was 90.

UC Merced's main library, one of three initial buildings on campus, is named after Kolligian and his late wife, Dottie. Kolligian attended UC Merced's grand opening in 2005 and was a member of the Chancellor's Associates donor group.

Kolligian's son Lee said his father pushed the state Legislature and governor's office to get a San Joaquin Valley university campus in Merced.

Kolligian, an attorney and developer who graduated from California State University, Fresno, and UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, practiced law in Fresno for more than 50 years.

He served as deputy California attorney general and as a former chairman of the UC Board of Regents. As chairman, he championed the cause for the first University of California campus in the San Joaquin Valley. In 1988, he moved for up to three new UC campuses, with the first one to be built in the Valley, and the regents unanimously passed his motion.

UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang said Kolligian leaves an enduring legacy that will benefit future generations of UC Merced students.

Kolligian and his second wife, June, were frequent visitors to the campus and participated in Kang's inauguration last fall.

"Leo's part in the building of UC Merced will always be remembered," Kang said. "The couple's devotion and contributions to the campus have been essential to the university's development. Most notable in their legacy is the Kolligians' lifelong commitment to educational and charitable causes and activities."

Asked to serve as the first two members of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees, Leo and Dottie Kolligian in turn persuaded other leaders throughout the San Joaquin Valley to join this key advisory board of the UC Merced campus.

Kolligian served for 12 years on the UC Board of Regents. He is past chairman of the Saint Agnes Medical Center Board of Directors, past president of Boys Club of Fresno and former president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union.

In addition, he is a former member of the board of directors of the Fresno County Heart Association, Fresno Cancer Society, Sequoia Council of Boy Scouts and Fresno Arts Center, and a trustee of the Boalt Hall School of Law. In 1998, he was knighted in New York by the Sovereign and Venerable Order of St. John Priory.

Services for Kolligian will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Paul Armenian Church, 3767 N. First St., in Fresno.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or Fresno Bee reporter Jim Steinberg contributed to this report.