In Memoriam

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David Novogrodsky ’55

In the early Fifties when David was at Reed, a group of students founded a mythical island nation from which they issued satiric declarations about campus events.

“David was the Commissioner and after serving an apprenticeship I was elevated to the title of M. le Directeur,” Michael Munk ’56 remembers. “Well into our dotage we continued to address ourselves with those titles. David was part of the posse that indoctrinated me into the culture and politics of Olde Reed.”

The two men shared a houseboat at the Max Weber Moorage on the Willamette River, which enjoyed some notoriety as a venue for Inquest fundraising parties.

“I responded eagerly to the speech, rhythms, and especially the humor of David’s Lower East Side accent, where one would ‘take’ a haircut and stand ‘on’ line,” Mike says. “But most important was his political radicalism.”

David majored in sociology and psychology at Reed, and wrote his thesis on contemporary American and Soviet Jewish communities with his advisors, Prof. Howard Jolly [sociology 1949-70] and Prof. Les Squier [psychology 1953-88]. David went on to earn a master’s in political science from the University of Oregon. Looking back, he noted, “Reed was good general preparation in that it encouraged a critical attitude.”

He was a fearless advocate for social justice and truth, and his radical background proved valuable in establishing a successful career as a labor union leader, organizer and visionary.  Among his many accomplishments, David was the Executive Director of the Professional & Technical Engineers Local 21 and an Executive Board Member of the San Francisco Labor Council.

“On his retirement several years ago, I was impressed by the quality and quantity of the state and Bay Area labor leaders who came to express their appreciation of his work,” Mike says. “Listening to them on a sunny day at his Berkeley home, I was quietly proud of his influence on me at Reed, our houseboat, and grad study at Eugene.”

David was preceded in death by his first wife, Rene, and is survived by his wife, Karen Zullo Sherr, his children, Ellen and Seth, two grandchildren and two sisters.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2016

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