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Ronni Gravitz, UC Berkeley retirement center program manager, dies

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

Just 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.

 Ronni Gravitz
Ronni Gravitz

Born in Los Angeles in 1944, Gravitz moved with her family to the Central Valley as a teenager. She graduated from Thomas Downey High School in Modesto in 1962.

Gravitz came to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate in 1963, beginning a 40-year history with the Cal community. She majored in English and minored in music, 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.

Gravitz returned to the Bay Area and came to work at the UC Office of the President (UCOP) in 1984. While at UCOP, she entered graduate school at John F. Kennedy University and completed a master's degree in counseling. That training informed the contributions she made during the rest of her life.

In 1985 she came to work at the 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.

"The various positions that Ronni held at the Office of the President and the University were not high-profile ones, but she was an inspiration to others and dedicated far beyond the call of duty," says Jan deVries, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare. "I think everyone who worked with her sensed that."

"She had an amazing ability to create and nurture community wherever she went," says Shelley Glazer, Executive Director of the UC Berkeley 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 (CEPA). As a former teacher, she shared her passion for the profession with future teachers and helped them by organizing the organization's statewide teacher-recruitment fair for 11 years.

She also co-founded the University's Alumni Chorus, a group that raises money for current campus music groups; the chorus performs locally and has given concerts in Australia, England, Czechoslovakia, China, and Russia as well.

Gravitz's husband died in 1995. Gravitz 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, Suite 1209, 654 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10021

A public memorial service will be held Friday, July 16, at 3 p.m. in the Goldberg Room in Boalt Hall. For further information, call the Retirement Center, 642-5461.

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