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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Educator, Tibet supporter Dorothy Berger dies at 69

April 14, 2011

MONDAY, APRIL 4, 2011 AT 9:35 A.M.

Dorothy Berger believed in the power of people to make a difference.

The retired college professor with a love of teaching and an affinity forTibet became a driving force in the international movement for Tibetan independence and an inspiration to her friends and colleagues.

During her 33-year career with Mesa College, Dr. Berger served as English Department chair, Academic Senate president and chair of chairs. She also became the first president of the faculty’s union when collective bargaining for public employees was signed into law in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Dr. Berger took a sabbatical to teach in China for a year. When she retired from Mesa in 2002, she devoted herself to The San Diego Friends of Tibet and TheInternational Tibet Support Network, serving as co-chair of network’s steering committee.

Dr. Berger died of cancer Feb. 28 at Sharp Hospice in San Diego. She was 69.

As news of her death spread throughout the global community of Tibetan supporters, tributes to the quiet leader with a witty sense of humor poured in from Europe, India, Mexico, Canada and throughout the U.S., said friend Cornelia Feye. “She touched a lot of people around the world but she was very humble and modest,” Feye said. “She was very selfless. She didn’t have a materialistic bone in her body. She just cared about people and coming up with solutions to problems.”

Friends and fellow Tibet supporters said Dr. Berger was instrumental in developing a strategic global plan that led to increased awareness and political lobbying. In a statement, Dennis Cusack, International Tibet Network co-chair, wrote that Dr. Berger was “a consummateteacher: patient, sharp as a tack, compassionate, and with a wry and sometimes wicked sense of humor. She could stand up in front of a crowd of unruly Tibet supporters and very calmly, as the best teachers can, bring the room to order by saying simply: ‘So, we’re going to get to work now, yes?’”

Longtime friend and Mesa colleague Sondra Frisch said Dr. Berger was passionate about teaching and her students. “She inspired learning and her (former) students often kept in touch with her,” Frisch said. “She was the best writer I knew and she was a superb cook. Cooking was one of her loves and if anything was really good, it was ‘delicious.’ She would say, ‘Listen to this delicious sentence’ or ‘I have a delicious book for you.’ She lived life to the fullest.”

Fellow teacher Jennifer Cost said Dr. Berger was a caring, generous and a consummate organizer. “Everybody in the (English) department admired her and her students adored her.” During her career at Mesa College, Dr. Berger taught literature and English as a Second Language. She later worked with Survivors of Torture, International, volunteering to teach English to those seeking political asylum.

Dorothy Maxine Berger was born Oct. 28, 1941 at Fort Jay, N.Y., to Morris and Jeanette Berger. Her father was in the military and the family moved around quite a bit. She grew up in New York, Northern California, Nevada and Japan. She earned a bachelor’s from Roosevelt University in Chicago and a master’s in English from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1969. She earned a doctorate in education from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1982.

Dr. Berger is survived by her mother; a sister, Catherine Lawer; and a brother, Robert Berger, who live in New York.

A memorial will be held at 4 p.m. April 28 at Mesa College’s Learning Resource Center. (619) 542-4559
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