Donald Vial was the founding Chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education, which began operations in 1964 under the faculty leadership of IRLE (then IIR) director Lloyd Ulman. A talented administrator and a distinguished scholar in his own right, Vial presided over the Labor Center’s rapid growth throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. During his tenure, IRLE and the Labor Center forged strong links among business, labor and academic groups, and it also spearheaded several innovative programs. One of these, the Minority Leadership Training Program, was a ground-breaking initiative that helped to advance minority workers into leadership position in labor unions; the program was emulated around the country.
Donald Vial was appointed to the PUC by Governor Jerry Brown and later became the President of PUC. In 1975, Governor Brown appointed Vial as Director of the California Department of Industrial Relations. He remained on leave from the University for several years while holding this position, but maintained close contact with IRLE and the University of California. In 1978, while serving as Director of DIR, and with the support of the California legislature, he was instrumental in founding the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
Donald Vial was also a well-known community leader and activist, serving over his career in a variety of public service roles. He served on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, Northern California Chapter; was Chair of the Advisory Committee to the State Office of the Consumer Council; and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Comprehensive Health Planning Council.
Later in his career, Donald Vial became Chair of the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, which illustrates his foresight in understanding the important links between employment issues and environmental health, safety and stewardship.