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Cal Journalism Teacher Susan Rasky Dies at 61

An esteemed UC Berkeley senior lecturer in journalism, Susan Rasky, a former reporter for the New York Times and Reuters, died Sunday from cancer at age 61. She was an inspirational mentor to a generation of students.

Susan Rasky, a member of the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism since 1991, died at age 61 on Dec. 29, 2013. Photo courtesy of the School of Journalism
Susan Rasky, a member of the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism since 1991, died at age 61 on Dec. 29, 2013. Photo courtesy of the School of Journalism
Susan Rasky, a well-liked and influential mentor to a generation of students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, died Sunday after a long illness, the school announced today, Thursday. She was 61.

Rasky, who joined the faculty in 1991, taught political and government reporting. She formerly covered Congress for the New York Times, covered Capitol Hill and the White House for Reuters and was a co-winner of the prestigious George Polk Award for National Reporting.

Rasky, who lived in El Cerrito, died of breast cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"As a teacher, she was known for her passion for politics and her attentiveness to her students," said an announcement from the journalism school. "Her connection to her students often extended years past their graduation."

"Long after graduation," the Los Angeles Times said, "she kept tabs on her students' lives and careers, alternately loving and hectoring."

The paper quoted former student John Myers, political editor at station KXTV in Sacramento, calling her "the ultimate Jewish mother. ... She was bawdy, she was profane, she was insightful … soothing and warm, all at the same time." 

Stanford political scientist Bruce Cain, who formerly taught at UC Berkeley, said her students were nicknamed "Raskyfarians" because "she so successfully imparted her own tenacious political reporting style and they were so devoted to her," according to the school announcement.

Rasky was a California native who received an undergraduate degree in history from UC Berkeley and a master's in economic history from the London School of Economics.

While on the Berkeley faculty, she continued work as a journalist contributing to the Los Angeles Times, California Journal, NPR and the Sacramento Bee among others.

"She was a great reporter," said Peter Schrag, retired editorial page editor at Sacramento Bee quoted in the school announcement. "I was close to things in Sacramento for 20 years, but I learned a helluva lot from her about the things I thought I already knew. I think between her reporting and her students, to whom she devoted endless amounts of time and, I think, real love, she must have worked 18 hours a day."

She is survived by mother Evelyn and her brother Louis.

A funeral service is scheduled for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at Fernwood Cemetery, 301 Tennessee Valley Road, Mill Valley. A memorial service will be held on the Berkeley campus at a date yet to be announced, the journalism school said.

Donations in her memory may be made by checks made out to UC Regents and designated for the Susan Rasky Scholarship Fund for Journalistic Excellence at the Graduate School of Journalism, 121 North Gate Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-5860.

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