Former Institute of Governmental Studies publications director Jerry Lubenow dies at 80

Jerry Lubenow
Newsweek/Courtesy
Jerry Lubenow, a former journalist at Newsweek and the San Francisco Chronicle, left a legacy as someone who would 'seek out varying points of view and think about them.'

Gerald “Jerry” Lubenow, a former director of publications for the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, died July 21 at the age of 80.

Before joining the campus faculty, Lubenow was a journalist, covering topics including the Civil Rights Movement in the South, Ronald Reagan’s campaign and Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.

“He was an avid news consumer, read probably two to three newspapers a day,” said Lubenow’s son, Michael Lubenow.

Lubenow grew up in Sheboygan, a small town in Wisconsin. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in geology at Harvard University, he began studying business, again at Harvard, but soon left to study journalism at the University of Wisconsin.

Before he could finish his degree, however, Lubenow worked a summer internship at Newsweek, an international news magazine, which turned into a permanent job.

After covering Reagan’s presidential campaign, Lubenow turned down an offer to become the press secretary for the Reagan administration, instead continuing his journalism career.

A few years later, in 1983, Lubenow began working for the San Francisco Chronicle. While working at the Chronicle, he had the idea to establish an items column in the middle of the front part of the paper, according to former Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik.

“In the city, if you saw him, you always felt acknowledged,” Garchik said. “You always felt he was shooting out waves of warmth, and what a wonderful characteristic that is as a human being.”

After his brief time at the Chronicle, Lubenow returned to Newsweek. He was transferred and became the magazine’s London bureau chief before returning to the Bay Area.

Following his return in 1989, he moved to Berkeley and became the director of publications at the campus Institute of Governmental Studies.

“People in San Francisco all live in this little bubble and sort of thought the same way, and Jerry was a skeptic and a great journalist,” said John Keker, a San Francisco attorney and friend of Lubenow’s for more than 45 years. “I always just loved that Jerry would seek out varying points of view and think about them. He was unusual in that way.”

In Berkeley, Lubenow and his wife, Joan, purchased their first house and remodeled it to create their “dream house,” Michael Lubenow said.

Michael Lubenow added that his parents both had a “green thumb.”

“They’d have very beautiful roses in front of their house that were admired by the entire neighborhood,” Michael Lubenow said. “People still stopped, looked at them all, even now.”

Lubenow is survived by his two children, Michael and Kristin, and four grandchildren.

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.