01 December 2004
Her sparkling energy, vibrancy, and genuine engagement with the concerns of others touched countless friends, neighbors, and fellow workers, in addition to her family. More than 300 letters, cards, e-mails, and phone calls from all over the world testify to the impact she had on so many people.
“It was part of Joan’s magic that she held people together, whether it was family, or communities of students and colleagues, or whole classes of Cal alumni,” wrote long-time friend Emely Weissman.
Vice Chancellor University Relations Don McQuade said of Gruen: “She was, simply put, a dedicated humanist and an inspiring voice of articulated good judgment and exquisite taste.”
Gruen was born in New York City on Aug. 22, 1938. She graduated from the High School of Music and Art in New York and obtained her B.A. from Barnard College.
After working as a real-estate agent for 15 years, she joined University Relations in 1988 to raise funds for class reunion gifts. She worked with the Class of 1954 to raise funds for scholarships, an endowed chair, the North Gate, and the Cal Fund. Believing that a strong library is crucial to the campus’s teaching and research, she worked a number of class campaigns to raise support for the Library’s collections — most recently with the Class of 1958 to raise funds for the Bancroft Library, including the Mark Twain collections. She helped to pair class campaigns around library collections and Alumni Leadership Scholarships, saying, “What’s not to like? The Library and students are the mother and apple pie of the university community.”
Said Lishelle Blakemore, director of annual programs: “Joan led dozens of class campaigns. She believed deeply in the mission of the university. All told she helped to raise more than $100 million to benefit the university’s academic programs.”
In recognition of her exemplary service, Gruen recently won the Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award.
Gruen is survived by her husband of 45 years, Erich Gruen, a Berkeley professor of history and classics; her daughter, Bonnie, son-in-law, Bill, and their children, Sarah, Claire, and Simon of Minneapolis; her son Keith, his partner, Regine, and their son, Aaron, of Munich, Germany; her son Jason Philip and daughter-in-law, Corinna, of Pullman, Wash.; her mother, Sabina, and aunt, Helen, of Walnut Creek; and her brother, David Bramnick of Corte Madera.
A campus memorial service to celebrate her life will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m. in Wheeler Auditorium.
Donations in the name of the Joan B. Gruen Fellowship Fund may be sent to University Relations, 2440 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94720 or made online at givetocal.berkeley.edu. The fellowship honors Gruen’s commitment to graduate study at Berkeley. Funds raised will be used for graduate students in the study of ancient history and Mediterranean archaeology.