Paul Grabowicz, campus journalism professor, dies at 66

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Paul “Grabs” Grabowicz, campus professor of journalism, beloved husband and mentor to students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, died of cancer Dec. 24. He was 66.

Grabowicz was recognized by those who knew him for his humor, drive and love of teaching journalism.

An old school reporter, Grabowicz is remembered for his forward thinking in the fields of investigative and digital journalism. At the Oakland Tribune — where he covered a range of beats — he was known as a relentless journalist who tried to harness a more human aspect in his stories and always strived to assist others in his field.

“If every newspaper in the country had 10 Paul Grabowiczes, American journalism would be different than it was today — just because of the drive and overall effort he put into finding out why things were happening,” said Eric Newton, a former colleague at the Oakland Tribune.

According to Newton, Grabowicz delved beyond the surface in his reporting, as demonstrated in his prize-winning work investigating the collapse of the Cypress Structure freeway during the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Often described as a natural teacher, he began his academic career at the campus Graduate School of Journalism in 1995, where he was constantly looking for ways to incorporate new media into the classroom. In 2006, he helped spearhead the creation of the Knight Digital Media Center, a multimedia training grounds for mid-career journalists.

He was often recognized for his gruff demeanor, which, according to his friends and colleagues, could be easily penetrated to unveil a heart exuding love and kindness.

“He had this whole exterior show that he perfected in a way,” said Rob Gunnison, former director of school affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism. “The magic was that everybody saw through it, and he knew it too.”

Despite his stern countenance, students knew he was always available to help them with a project. On most days, he would leave his office door open for shy students to enter and receive instruction, said Jeremy Rue, a lecturer at the journalism school.

His forays into the field of digital storytelling were always intended to educate the next generation of journalists, according to Rue. Many of his students felt his commitment to their success firsthand.

“Within the world we knew him, it felt like he lived for the students,” said Lynne Shallcross, a graduate of the journalism school and former student of Grabowicz. “He had so much in his life outside of that but when he was with you at school, it felt like he lived for the students and believed so much in their potential — in every one of us.”

Described as a humble man by many, he would not take credit for the success of his students — although it was apparent how much his lessons left an indelible impact on them beyond graduation. Even after his cancer diagnosis, he continued to dedicate his time to his students.

He is survived by his wife, Anne Miller-Grabowicz, who also said he was extremely humble and had a beautiful heart. He grew up in Southwick, Massachusetts, and he loved animals and the forest.

A memorial service will be held by the journalism school in January.

Contact Cassandra Vogel at [email protected].