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Obituary
Judith Gruber

03 August 2005


Judy Gruber (Peg Skorpinski photo)
Judith Emily Gruber, a political science professor known for her research on bureaucracy and regional governance — as well as for her pioneering leadership on work/life policies at UC Berkeley — died at her home in Berkeley on June 1 after a 20-month battle with brain cancer. She was 54.

Gruber's academic specialties included public policy, urban politics, intergovernmental relations, bureaucracy, American politics, and public administration.

Gruber was born on Sept. 20, 1950, in New York City. She graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in government and received her doctorate in political science, with distinction, from Yale University in 1981. A year later, her doctoral dissertation won her the American Political Science Association's Leonard D. White Award for the best dissertation in the general field of public administration.

"Judy Gruber's intellectual life was devoted to answering a question central to the governance of modern democracies — how can a citizenry make a bureaucracy more responsive to the people?" said Professor Pradeep Chhibber, chair of the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science.

In her 1987 book, Controlling Bureaucracies: Dilemmas in Democratic Governance, she explored the conditions under which the public can exert democratic control over government officials, who are privy to more information.

Her more recent work turned to the problem of developing regional or metropolitan policy, specifically transportation and resource management.

For nearly 25 years, Gruber played a leadership role in the internal governance of the University of California. She was at the forefront of both the UC systemwide administration and that of the Berkeley campus in developing new policies on work and family issues, including child care for faculty and staff, adult dependent care, pregnancy and parenting, and gender issues.

In 2003, in recognition of her extraordinary service to Berkeley, the campus's Academic Senate awarded her the inaugural Faculty Distinguished Service Award, and then-Chancellor Robert Berdahl awarded her the Berkeley Citation for outstanding service to the university. Both awards were presented in a standing-room-only ceremony on campus in December of that year.

Gruber was instrumental in creating the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Dependent Care, which she co-chaired from 1989 to 1995, continuing thereafter as an active member of the committee. She was responsible for the campus publication "A Guide for Balancing Work and Family." In addition, Gruber served on the campus Committee on University Welfare for more than a decade.

She was a leader in drafting the campus's childcare policy and served as chair of the UC systemwide Committee on Faculty Welfare. She also served as chair of the political science department from 2001 until her illness was diagnosed in 2003.

"She was universally adored by her students for her dedication and commitment," said Chhibber, "widely admired as an administrator by her colleagues because of her deep sense of fairness, and the policies she initiated made life better for all on campus."

"The way Judy died was the way she lived — practical, never complaining, and always thinking of others," said Professor Judith Innes of the campus's city and regional planning department. "I worked closely with her for nearly 20 years. She was not only the best colleague I ever had, but she was a superb researcher and rigorous thinker. She permanently changed how I think and work and made me much better at my own scholarly work. She did this with students, too, who sought after her as an adviser. Her way of working was always collaborative, curious, and creative. It was fun as well as enlightening to work with her."

Gruber is survived by her husband, Joseph Houska, and her sons, David and Aaron, of Berkeley, as well as by her father, Irving Gruber, of New York City.

Donations in her honor may be made to the Early Childhood Education Program Annual Fund and sent to Early Childhood Education Program Annual Fund, Development and Community Relations, Office of Undergraduate Affairs, 203 Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1530, Attention: Judy Gruber Scholarship Fund.

— Janet Gilmore