Susan Rasky dies at 61; reporter became Berkeley journalism lecturer
Susan Rasky, an award-winning congressional correspondent who mentored a generation of young political journalists as a senior lecturer at UC Berkeley, died Sunday at her home in El Cerrito, Calif. She was 61 and had breast cancer.
A graduate of Los Angeles’ Fairfax High School and an alumna of Berkeley, Rasky was a familiar sight at California political events, wrestling an armload of papers and trailing a gaggle of students, whom she nudged to join in news conferences and panel discussions.
Although she never married and had no children, Rasky was “the ultimate Jewish mother,” said John Myers, political editor at the ABC affiliate in Sacramento, KXTV, and a former Rasky student. Long after graduation, she kept tabs on her students’ lives and careers, alternately loving and hectoring.
“She was bawdy, she was profane, she was insightful … soothing and warm, all at the same time,” said Myers, one of many Rasky proteges who took to social media to remember their former professor.
Rasky was born June 10, 1952, in Hollywood, raised in Baldwin Hills and moved to the Fairfax District for high school. She was raised in a “traditional, left-leaning Jewish family,” for which political discussion was common dinner and Passover fare, said her younger brother, Louis. Even then, Susan was opinionated and assertive; she often led those discussions, her brother said.
Rasky grew interested in journalism at Berkeley, where she studied history. After graduating in 1974, she took her master’s degree in economic history at the London School of Economics.
Moving to Washington, she covered the economy for five years for the Bureau of National Affairs, a publisher of trade journals, before joining Reuters, covering Capitol Hill and the White House. In 1984, she went to the New York Times, working as an editor in New York and Washington before becoming the newspaper’s congressional correspondent. In 1990, she shared a George Polk Award for her coverage of Capitol Hill.
The next year, Rasky joined the faculty at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she taught political and government reporting. Reporters and lawmakers visiting the UC campus would often find themselves collared and thrust in front of Rasky’s classes, where she helped lead the student interrogation.
Although personally liberal, Rasky sought out opposing speakers. “She thought it was really important for her students to understand the reasoning and logic behind the other side,” Louis Rasky said.
Along with her brother, survivors include Rasky’s mother, Evelyn.
A Berkeley scholarship fund has been established in Rasky’s name. Services are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, Calif., with a campus memorial to follow later this winter.
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