News

Obit: Journalist Susan F. Rasky

Susan F. Rasky, a former Congressional reporter for the New York Times who taught for two decades at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, died Sunday following a long illness. She was 61.

Rasky, a native of Los Angeles, received a bachelor’s degree in history from Berkeley in 1974. She then traveled to England where she earned a master’s degree in economic history from the London School of Economics.

“We’ll miss Susan so much,” said Dean Ed Wasserman. “She was deeply intelligent, caring, insightful, passionate and uncompromising. She personified what’s best about journalism and what’s noblest about our aspirations. And she was a great pleasure to talk to and listen to. I’m very sorry she’s gone.”

 Ms. Rasky was “the most profound influence of my career,” said John Myers, who graduated in 1995 and now is political editor of the ABC affiliate in Sacramento. “Susan became a guiding force in my professional life in August 1993 and never waivered in her willingness to advise, promote and tutor my work as a political reporter.”

Rasky began her journalism career in Washington at the Bureau of National Affairs, covering economic policy. Five years later she moved to Reuters, where she reported from Capitol Hill and the White House. In 1984, she joined the New York Times, where she worked as an editor and reporter in both New York and Washington. Ultimately, she became the Congressional correspondent for the Times.

In 1991, Rasky returned to Berkeley to teach journalism, at first in a temporary capacity and eventually as a full-time senior lecturer. Within three months of her arrival at Berkeley, she was notified that she had won a George Polk award for national reporting, among the most prestigious prizes in journalism, for work she had done the previous year.

The awards committee cited Ms. Rasky and her colleague David Rosenbaum for “meticulously and insightfully” covering the “greatest budget debate that has ever taken place in the United States.”

Moving effortlessly from the newsroom to the classroom, Ms. Rasky left an enduring imprint on a generation of students. In her years at Berkeley, she specialized in teaching political and government reporting —  the foundational courses of the school since it began 20 years earlier.

The journalism school released an announcement of her death that included comments from many who had worked with her.

Ms. Rasky was “the most profound influence of my career,” said John Myers, who graduated in 1995 and now is political editor of the ABC affiliate in Sacramento. “Susan became a guiding force in my professional life in August 1993 and never waivered in her willingness to advise, promote and tutor my work as a political reporter.”

Mr. Myers recalled how her former students referred to themselves as “Rasky-ites.” Bruce Cain, a former political science professor at Berkeley now teaching at Stanford, recalled a different nickname—”Raskyfarians”–because “she so successfully imparted her own tenacious political reporting style and they were so devoted to her.”

While teaching, Ms. Rasky delighted in writing about arcane, political tactics as well as big policy issues. She continued to report for a number of outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the California Journal, the Sacramento Bee and NPR.

“She was a great reporter,” recalled Peter Schrag, the retired editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee. “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 her mother, Evelyn, and her brother, Louis.

Ed’s Note:  A funeral service will be held this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the chapel at Fernwood Cemetery, 301 Tennessee Valley Road, Mill Valley. Later in the winter, a memorial service will be held on the Berkeley campus. Those wishing to donate money in her memory are encouraged to send checks, made out to UC Regents, earmarking the funds for the Susan Rasky Scholarship Fund for Journalistic Excellence at the Graduate School of Journalism, 121 North Gate Hall, Berkeley, CA. 94720


  • Bob_Mulholland

    For 2 decades, Susan would call me and ask if she could bring 5-10 of her students to our annual Democratic State Conventions. I would say absolutely and tell her to bring them to our news conferences. I always thought, I wish more professors would do what Susan did for here students- get them to observe actual events and in California there is nothing better than a Democratic Convention where those students could talk in the hallway with Hillary Clinton, Jerry Brown, John Kerry, Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama. I and many future students will miss Susan. Bob Mulholland

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