UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

UC Berkeley political science professor Judith Gruber dies

– Judith Emily Gruber, a University of California, Berkeley, political science professor known for her research on bureaucracy and regional governance as well as for her pioneering leadership on work/life policies at UC Berkeley, died at her home in Berkeley on Wednesday (June 1) after a 20-month battle with brain cancer.

She was 54.

Judith Gruber
Judith Gruber (Peg Skorpinski photo)

"Judy Gruber's intellectual life was devoted to answering a question central to the governance of modern democracies - how can a citizenry make a bureaucracy more responsive to the people?" said Professor Pradeep Chhibber, chair of UC Berkeley's Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science. "She made the department and Berkeley a better and a special place: She is universally adored by her students for her dedication and commitment, widely admired as an administrator by her colleagues because of her deep sense of fairness, and the policies she initiated made life better for all on campus."

Gruber's academic specialties included public policy, urban politics, intergovernmental relations, bureaucracy, American politics and public administration.

In her book, "Controlling Bureaucracies: Dilemmas in Democratic Governance" (University of California Press, 1987), she explored the conditions under which the public can exert democratic control over government officials, who are privy to more information.

Her more recent work turned to the problem of developing regional or metropolitan policy, specifically transportation and resource management. Her article, "Planning Styles in Conflict at the San Francisco Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission," was published in the current spring issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association. She also was co-author of the monographs "Coordinating Growth and Environmental Management through Consensus Building" (California Policy Seminar, 1994) and "Bay Area Transportation Decision Making in the Wake of ISTEA" (University of California Transportation Center, 2001).

For nearly 25 years, Gruber played a leadership role in the internal governance of the University of California. She was at the forefront of both the UC system-wide administration and that of the Berkeley campus in developing new policies on work and family issues, including child care for faculty and staff, adult dependent care, pregnancy and parenting, and gender issues.

In 2003, in recognition of her extraordinary service to UC Berkeley, the campus's Academic Senate awarded her the inaugural Faculty Distinguished Service Award, and then-Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl awarded her the Berkeley Citation for outstanding service to the university. Both awards were presented in a standing-room only ceremony on campus in December of that year.

Gruber was instrumental in creating the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Dependent Care, which she co-chaired from 1989 to 1995, continuing thereafter as an active member of the committee. She was responsible for the campus publication "A Guide for Balancing Work and Family." In addition, Gruber served on the UC Berkeley Committee on University Welfare for more than a decade, chairing it from 1998-99.

She was a leader in drafting the campus's childcare policy and served as chair of the UC system-wide Committee on Faculty Welfare. She also served as chair of the political science department from 2001 until her illness was diagnosed in 2003.

"The way she died was the way she lived - practical, never complaining and always thinking of others," said Professor Judith Innes of the campus's city and regional planning department. "She was brave and gracious to the end. Her many friends will miss her always."

Gruber was born on September 20, 1950, in New York City, the daughter of Leonora and Irving Gruber. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in government from Cornell University and received her doctorate in political science, with distinction, from Yale University in 1981. A year later, her doctoral dissertation won her the American Political Science Association's Leonard D. White Award for the best dissertation in the general field of public administration.

"I worked closely with Judy for nearly 20 years," said Innes. "She was not only the best colleague I ever had, but she was a superb researcher and rigorous thinker. She permanently changed how I think and work and made me much better at my own scholarly work. She did this with students, too, who sought after her as an advisor. Her way of working was always collaborative, curious and creative. It was fun as well as enlightening to work with her.

"Judy was remarkable on a personal level as well. There are good reasons she was so successful in leadership roles. She had vision, but at the same time she was practical. She was direct and to the point, but at the same time she was diplomatic and politically savvy. To Judy, however, it was her family that mattered most. They always came first, no matter what else she was doing."

Gruber is survived by her husband, Joseph Houska, and her sons, David and Aaron, of Berkeley, as well as by her father, Irving Gruber, of New York City.

Funeral services will be held at Congregation Beth El, 2301Vine St., at Arch and Vine streets in Berkeley, at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 5.

Donations in honor of Gruber may be made to the Early Childhood Education Program Annual Fund and sent to: Early Childhood Education Program Annual Fund, Development & Community Relations, Office of Undergraduate Affairs, 203 Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1530, Attention: Judy Gruber Scholarship Fund.

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