UC Berkeley News


Obituaries: Charles Susskind, William Kornhauser, Carol Fischer, Gillian Brown, Ronni Gravitz

22 July 2004

Charles Susskind
Charles Susskind, professor emeritus of electrical engineering and a co-founder of bioengineering studies at UC Berkeley, died on June 15 at his home in Berkeley after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 82.

susskindWorking with Irving Fatt, at the time a professor of mechanical engineering, Susskind organized the campus’s first bioengineering graduate training program and later helped expand it to an undergraduate curriculum. Their efforts formed the foundation for the Joint UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco Graduate Group in Bioengineering in 1982 and the Department of Bioengineering in 1999.

Born in Prague in 1921, Susskind fled to England with his older brother, Walter (who would later become a world-renowned orchestral conductor), in 1939. Although he could not speak English at the time, he would later become fluent in English, French, and German, in addition to his native Czech.

In London, after World War II broke out, Susskind joined the U.S. Army as a radar specialist for the Air Corps, the precursor to the U.S. Air Force. After the war ended, Susskind and his wife, Teresa, moved to the United States and became U.S. citizens.

Susskind earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology in 1948 and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Yale University in 1951. He returned to California and spent the next four years at Stanford University as a research associate and lecturer before joining the Berkeley faculty as an assistant professor in electrical engineering in 1955.

Susskind served as assistant dean of the College of Engineering from 1964 to 1968. In 1969, he took a position at the UC Office of the President as coordinator of academic affairs for all UC campuses.

In 1974 he returned to teaching at Berkeley, retiring in 1991. Among the many honors Susskind earned were a Fulbright Scholarship in 1961, a National Science Foundation Senior Faculty Fellowship in 1968, and numerous awards from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 1985 he became chairman of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s presidential scientific advisory committee.

Susskind is survived by his wife, Teresa, of Berkeley; daughters Pamela Pettler and Amanda Susskind, both of Los Angeles; son Peter Susskind, of Kensington; and two grandsons.

A memorial services was held July 11.
— Sarah Yang

William Kornhauser
William Kornhauser, emeritus professor of sociology and author of a landmark book on mass society and extremism, died of a heart attack in his Berkeley home on July 3. He was 79.

In The Politics of Mass Society (1959), Kornhauser explored the social conditions necessary for democracy and the vulnerabilities of large-scale society to totalitarianism. He distinguished between dangerous mass movements and more democratic types of social and political organizations that characterize a diverse society.

During the 1960s, Kornhauser was part of a group of Berkeley faculty who actively supported the Free Speech Movement. The group drafted proposals designed to resolve the chaos on campus and to help students win their demands. Kornhauser also was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War.

Locally, he participated in the grassroots organization Berkeley Citizens Action; on the national level, he worked on the George McGovern presidential bid in 1970 and with the nuclear-freeze movement.

Kornhauser was born in Chicago and attended Antioch College in Ohio. He was trained as a civil-rights activist at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, which focused on interracial and labor politics.

From Highlander, Kornhauser joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Italy as a navigator with the 20th Bomb Squadron before his discharge in 1946.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1948, a master's degree in sociology in 1950, and a Ph.D. in sociology in 1953 — all from the University of Chicago. Kornhauser became an instructor in sociology at Columbia University in 1952, and joined UC Berkeley's fledgling sociology department in 1953.

Over the years, he wrote dozens of scholarly articles and published another book, Scientists in Industry: Conflict and Accommodation (UC Press, 1962).

Kornhauser's survivors include his daughter, Anne, of New York City, and his sister, Ruth Zubrensky, of Milwaukee, Wis. His former wife, sociologist Ruth Rosner Kornhauser, died in 1995.

The family plans a private memorial service. For more information about contributions or the service, contact Anne Kornhauser at mailto:amk23@columbia.edu.
—Kathleen Maclay

Carol Fischer
Carol Fischer, an administrative assistant in the Office of the Registrar, passed away unexpectedly in her home on June 2.

Fischer, who first joined the Office of the Registrar in 1997, served in the office’s Administration, Residency, and Records units. Said University Registrar Susanna Castillo-Robson: “Whether you were trying to make an appointment to discuss residency, or had a Records question that needed answering, Carol was always there to help and inform. Her supportive and cheerful demeanor will be sorely missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to know her as a friend and colleague.”

Born and educated in Indiana, Fischer first worked in the banking industry before joining the higher- education community. Immediately prior to coming to Berkeley, she worked for six years at UC Irvine.

Fischer is survived by her son, Kenyon Banks, his wife, Kimberly, and four grandchildren; her sister, Sharon Krider, and her husband, Jess; and four nephews and nieces.

A memorial service was held on June 6.

Gillian Brown
Berkeley staffer Gillian Brown died on June 14 at California Pacific Medical Center of complications from an autoimmune disease. Born in Philadelphia in 1947, Brown attended Temple University and early in her career was a public-school teacher.

At the time of her death, she was the Practicum Coordinator for the Principal Leadership Program of the Kenneth E. Behring Center for Educational Improvement at the Graduate School of Education. Her role was to coordinate field experiences for 50 M.A. students each year who are obtaining an administrative credential, most of whom are in urban schools serving students of color. She had previously coordinated the M.A in Management program at John F. Kennedy University, where she continued to teach courses on race and diversity.

The Berkeley resident is survived by two sons, Kent Brown and Kevin Brown. Memorial services are pending.

Ronni Gravitz
Ronni Gravitz, UC Berkeley Retirement Center program manager, died Sunday, June 20, from complications from breast cancer. She was 59.

ronnie gravitzJust 10 days before her death she was presented with the Berkeley Citation, an award that honors those who have provided exemplary service to the University.

Gravitz came to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate in 1963, graduating in 1966. After graduation, she taught in Alameda and Sonoma counties as well as in Waltham, Mass., where she and her husband lived for several years.

Returning to the Bay Area, Gravitz came to work at the UC Office of the President in 1984. While at UCOP, she entered graduate school at John F. Kennedy University and completed a master’s degree in counseling. In 1985 she joined the staff of UC Berkeley’s Career Center, where she counseled hundreds of students and alumni over the course of 17 years.

Her interests eventually shifted from helping students launch their careers to assisting staff and faculty in their preparations for retirement. Gravitz educated herself about aging and then, following participation in a staff internship program at the campus Retirement Center, took the nascent pre-retirement program there and defined it. She also forged an Internet-based “retiree return to work” program, helping connect campus hiring managers with retired staff members.

“She had an amazing ability to create and nurture community wherever she went,” says Shelley Glazer, executive director of the Retirement Center. “The connections she fostered and programs she started will long endure.”

Gravitz’s commitment to the Cal community included volunteering for the California Educational Placement Association. She also co-founded the University’s Alumni Chorus, a group that raises money for current campus music groups.

Gravitz’s husband died in 1995. She is survived by her parents, Sidney and Shirley Kordell of Camarillo (Ventura County); a daughter, Lauren Gravitz, of New York; and a sister, Gerri Junso, of Camarillo.

Donations in Gravitz’s memory may be made to the Gravitz Internship on Aging, UC Berkeley Retirement Center, 2 Boalt Hall #7200, Berkeley, CA 94720-7200 (checks payable to UC Regents); the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 102454, Atlanta, GA 30368-2454; or the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, 654 Madison Ave., Suite 1209, New York, NY 10021.

A public memorial service was held on July 16.
—Wendy Edelstein