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History department professor emeritus Gene Brucker dies at 92

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JULY 23, 2017

Gene Brucker, a professor emeritus in the campus’s history department, died in hospice care at the Bayside Park senior retirement center in Emeryville on July 9. Brucker was 92.

Specializing in early modern European history, Brucker came to the campus in 1954 and taught until his retirement in 1991. Brucker was extremely active in the campus history department, serving as the department chair from 1969 to 1972. Brucker was also the chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate from 1984 to 1986 and president of the Renaissance Society of America, and he was awarded the RSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award along with the Berkeley Citation award.

In total, Brucker published more than 30 articles and essays while authoring 11 books, two of his major books — “Florentine Politics and Society, 1343-1378” and “The Civic World of Renaissance Florence” — detailing the history of late medieval Florence.

Campus history professor Thomas Dandelet, who also specializes in early modern European history, said though Brucker had retired by the time he joined the history department’s faculty, he knew Brucker’s work well. Dandelet added that Brucker’s work was a reason for the campus history department becoming one of the strongest departments in UC Berkeley and a “leading department in the country.”

Brucker also made efforts to recruit more female faculty members into the history department during his time as chair.

“(Brucker) really had a big impact on the field that made him a leading member of that generation,” Dandelet said.

Brucker’s friend and colleague, campus professor emeritus Randolph Starn, said he first met Brucker in the late 1960s in Florence and the duo became extremely close starting in 1966, when Starn joined the campus history department.

“We were friends and colleagues for all of those years. (We) read (to) one another, lunched with one another (and) chatted about all kinds of things,” Starn said. “He was a person that was much more than a scholar — he was a citizen of the university.”

Brucker’s son, Mark Brucker, said his father was often described as being “very kind and helpful” to his students both personally and professionally.

Starn also called Brucker “extraordinarily generous,” saying that “he was interested and had the opportunity to explore the wider world, (which) made him extraordinarily open.” Dandelet added that Brucker “always had a smile on his face when he went into his office” and was “extremely generous with his time and his advice.”

Wendy Brucker, Brucker’s daughter, said when she would talk to her father about his work, he would change the subject because “it was never about him and what he has done,” even though Brucker had an “amazing life.”

“He was a very quiet, very humble man, considering his very distinguished accomplishments,” Wendy Brucker said. “(He was) unerringly polite (and would) go above and beyond to help (students) in their professional career.”

Contact Maya Ng-Yu at [email protected]

JULY 23, 2017