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Obituaries: David Feller, Marvin Rosenberg

26 February 2003



David Feller, left , and Marvin Rosenberg

David Feller

David Feller, a renowned labor-law expert and professor emeritus in the School of Law (Boalt Hall), died on Monday, Feb. 10, at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland, where he had been admitted for multiple health problems. He was 86.

“David Feller was a widely respected labor law scholar and prominent member of the Boalt faculty for more than 35 years,” said law professor Jesse Choper, a former dean of Boalt Hall. “He came to Berkeley following a brilliant, nearly two-decade-long career as one of the nation’s preeminent appellate lawyers in this field, arguing a large number of the most important labor law cases decided by the United States Supreme Court at that time.”

Feller was born in New York City on Nov. 19, 1916. He received his bachelor’s degree and law degree from Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude. While attending law school at Harvard, he served as an editor of its Law Review.

After graduation, he taught at the University of Chicago; served in the U.S. Army (where he earned a Bronze Star); and went on to work for the Department of Justice. From 1948 to 1948, he clerked for Chief Justice Fred Vinson of the U.S. Supreme Court.

He became a partner in the Washington, D.C., firm of Goldberg, Feller & Bredhoff and served as general counsel for the United Steelworkers and the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, as well as for several other unions.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Feller argued a multitude of important labor law cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including Vaca v. Sipes and Goodall-Sanford, Inc. v. Textile Workers. He also participated extensively in National Labor Relations Board proceedings and negotiated collective-bargaining agreements for the United Steelworkers and other unions.

Feller also participated extensively in civil-rights litigation. During the 1950s, he served on an advisory committee of lawyers that assisted Thurgood Marshall, at the time the general counsel for the NAACP, in preparing litigation challenging school segregation. He also wrote or contributed to numerous friend-of-the-court briefs, including for Brown v. Board of Education and University of California v. Bakke.

Feller joined the Boalt Hall faculty in 1967, teaching appellate advocacy and labor law during his 20-year term. He participated in several university committees and boards, including the board of the University of California Retirement System, for which he was a board member for more than 15 years. In 1987 he was awarded the prestigious Berkeley Citation in recognition of his extraordinary achievement in the field of labor law and his outstanding service to UC Berkeley.

“David was the consummate wise and seasoned lawyer,” said colleague and former Boalt Hall dean Sanford Kadish. “He was a voice for reason and moderation throughout his tenure at Boalt, and his constant pragmatic concern for reasonable accommodation and his masterful lawyering skills brought us through many stormy seas in the turbulent ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Feller is survived by his wife of 55 years, Gilda; a younger brother, Oscar, of Palm Desert, Calif.; sons Fred of Berkeley, Daniel of Albuquerque, N.M., Joseph of Phoenix, Ariz., and Jonathan of Mill Valley; and four granddaughters.

The family requests that any donations be made to the Hazard-Heyman Loan Fund, and sent to Alumni Relations & Development, School of Law, 303 Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-7200.
— Erin Campbell, Boalt Hall School of Law

Marvin Rosenberg
Marvin Rosenberg, a professor emeritus whose series of books on the stage history of Shakespeare’s plays have been central to Shakespearean studies, died Feb. 4 at the age of 90 at his home in El Cerrito.

Rosenberg’s contribution to Shakespearean scholarship included “The Masks of Othello” in 1961, “The Masks of King Lear” in 1972, “The Masks of Macbeth” in 1978, and “The Masks of Hamlet” in 1992.

In recent years, Rosenberg was researching the fifth book in this series, “The Masks of Anthony and Cleopatra.” He was working on the final chapter when he suffered a stroke in August 2002, but continued to think through the chapter in the following months. The book will be edited and published posthumously.

“His books are deservedly familiar to every scholar of Shakespearean acting in the world,” said William Worthen, chair of the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.

“Rosenberg moves through a Shakespearean play from scene to scene, from moment to moment, showing the reader the variety of choices that producers and actors have made for each moment,” said Dunbar Ogden, an emeritus professor in the department “This description leads him to demonstrate ways in which dramatic production has informed and interpreted the lines, how performance illuminates text.”

Rosenberg was a pioneer in this method of theatrical interpretation, which has since become an accepted tool of Shakespeare critics and criticism.

Born to Russian immigrant parents in Fresno on Nov. 6, 1912, Rosenberg earned B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English, all at Berkeley. He taught high school briefly before World War II interrupted his career. After the war, he returned to Berkeley to earn his Ph.D. Rosenberg joined the faculty in 1949, and first taught in journalism. He switched to theater arts, and became a full professor in 1961. After becoming an emeritus professor in 1983, he continued to lecture and publish.

Rosenberg is survived by his wife, Mary; his son, Barr, of Orinda, Calif.; and sisters Nedda Fratkin of Santa Barbara and Violet Ginsburg of Berkeley. His previous wife, Dorothy, a published poet, died in 1969.

A memorial celebration is set for 2 p.m., Sunday, March 16, at Alumni House on the Berkeley campus.
— Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs

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