UC Berkeley film and literary scholar William Nestrick, chair of comparative literature, has died at the age of 55

by Robert Sanders

Berkeley -- William V. Nestrick, a scholar of literature and film at the University of California at Berkeley, died at his Berkeley home Feb. 29 of a brain hemorrhage. He was 55.

At the time of his death he was chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and an associate professor of English and comparative literature.

A native of Manhasset, New York, Nestrick joined the UC Berkeley English faculty in 1967 upon receiving his Ph.D. in English from Harvard, where he received the B.A. summa cum laude in 1961. He joined the comparative literature faculty in 1974, and his appointment was shared thereafter between the two departments.

His exceptionally wide knowledge and interests in the arts were reflected in teaching and publications ranging from English Renaissance poetry to the modern visual arts, opera, music and film.

He chaired the arts division juries for the San Francisco International Film Festival for several years, and this spring's festival, April 18-May 5, will dedicate a program to his memory.

He served the campus as dean of the Division of Special Programs from 1986 to 1988, and founded and headed the undergraduate major program in film, 1977-90. Since 1980 a member of the Chancellor's Committee on the Creative Arts, and also a member of the University Art Museum's Collections Committee, he was a frequent lecturer at the Pacific Film Archive, and was active in many campus and Bay Areas arts and film organizations.

Nestrick was born May 28, 1940, into a family of educators. His late father, W. Virgil Nestrick, was a professor of education and program chair of teacher education at New York's Queens College, CUNY, and later an administrator in the New York City school system. His mother was a high school principal in Manhasset and later an editor at MacMillan.

William too was a beloved and influential teacher. During his Harvard years, as tutor in Adams House, he was a memorable mentor to undergraduates, many of whom remained devoted friends as they pursued careers in theater and music, in poetry and fiction writing, as well as in academia.

At UC Berkeley, where he continued to inspire students in cross-disciplinary studies in the arts, he also taught in UC Extension and in the Division of Undergraduate and Interdisciplinary Studies, which he helped establish.

He is survived by his mother, Nova Nestrick, of Walnut Creek, Calif., maternal uncle Reuben Guin of Edinburgh, Texas, and maternal aunt Frances Ullrich of Pleasantville, New York.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, March 20, at 4 p.m. in the auditorium of the International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. at Bancroft Way, in Berkeley. Contributions in his memory may be made to the William Nestrick Memorial Fund, care of the Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley 94720.

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