A gray-haired man with glasses and a flannel shirt unbuttoned at top
Andrew Allen Stern. Credit: Peter Leonard

Andrew Allen Stern died in Berkeley on June 27 at the age of 92. He leaves behind his daughter Alexandra Minna Stern, her partner Terri Koreck, granddaughter Sofia Stern-Koreck, his partner Lois Cunniff, as well as extended family members and a vast network of friends.

Andrew was born on Jan. 10, 1931, in Munich, where his father was a well-known dealer in fine arts. The gathering storm of Nazism forced his parents and brother to take refuge first in Belgium with his grandparents, and in 1939, in New York City. Already trilingual at the age of 8, he immersed himself in school, fell in love with baseball (the Brooklyn Dodgers), and began to build a career as a journalist by founding a student newspaper at Columbia Grammar School and graduating as president of the senior class. He then attended Dartmouth College, spending a mind-opening year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army (1952-1954) as an interpreter in France, where he made life-long friends.

After the Korean War, Andrew returned to the East Coast, and continued his work in journalism, at the Voice of America and then National Educational Television (NET), the precursor of PBS. He produced half-hour and hour-long programs on timely topics related to nuclear weapons, race relations, and arts and culture, including “Hiroshima, 1965,” and “Brunswick, GA: Quiet Conflict.”

In 1959 he met Mary Lou Wyatt, a researcher for labor unions, at a party in Washington D.C.  Marriage followed and soon after, a move to New York City. They spent most of the 1960s on the upper west side of Manhattan. Given they wished to grow their family through adoption and their marriage involved mixed religions (Andrew was Jewish and Mary Lou was Protestant), they struggled to find an agency that would accept them. Through mutual friends, they located an attorney in San Francisco who facilitated the adoption of their daughter Alexandra in 1966.

In 1969, the dean of the recently established Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley asked Andrew if he was interested in coming out west for one year to try launching a broadcast journalism program. Enraptured by the Bay Area during the heady “summer of love,” that stint turned into more than 25 years as a faculty member at UC Berkeley and more than 50 years residing in North Berkeley.

Andrew and Mary Lou came to love northern California, attending concerts and exhibits in San Francisco, spending time in the summer and winter at Lake Tahoe, and exploring many parts of the state and relishing its beauty.

As a Senior Lecturer and Professor at Berkeley, Andrew taught memorable undergraduate courses and trained hundreds of students in the craft of documentary film making. A proponent of diversity, equity, and inclusion before it was branded as such, Andrew was a strong advocate for, and eventually hired, the queer Black documentarian Marlon Riggs; he mentored many pioneering women in journalism and always supported students with disabilities. He was an amazing and unwavering mentor to his students and became lifelong friends with many of them.

During this period, in 1981, Andrew produced the award-winning documentary, How Much is Enough: Decision Making in the Nuclear Age?, which was filmed in the United States and Europe. This documentary was broadcast nationwide by PBS and in six European countries and received high praise including the George Polk Award, the Thomas Storke Award, the Edward Weintal Prize, and Best Documentary at the U.S. Film Festival Park City (which became the Sundance Film Festival).

After retiring in 1994, Stern spent five years traveling back and forth between his home in Berkeley and the former Soviet Union, where he coached an eager generation of young journalists and newly independent television stations in the processes and meaning of a free press. Andrew led a full professional life into the 2000s, traveling to several countries in Africa and Haiti, as part of the United States Information Agency’s programs to support journalism in the developing world. After this flurry of work, Andrew then turned his attention to scanning and reprinting his videography and photography, which is available on this website, now maintained by his family.

Throughout his life, Andrew was a passionate skier and tennis player. He skied at mountain locales in the U.S. West as well as the French Alps, for many years taking annual trips with a steadfast group of friends who benefited from his skills as a cook and a sommelier. He played tennis for decades, as a member of the Claremont Resort and then the Berkeley Tennis Club, winning several club tournaments.

In addition to his documentary work, Andrew was an accomplished photographer, and an early adopter of the digital conversion of print images. His portfolios were shown at venues around the country. Most notably, his Appalachian portfolio of photos taken in the late 1950s and early 1960s – inspired by Mary Lou’s upbringing in North Carolina – were exhibited in Kentucky, Virginia and California in the early 2000s. His photographic work was recognized for its compassionate and no-nonsense portrayal of hard-scrabble life in eastern Kentucky.

After Mary Lou died in 2008, Andrew was fortunate to be reunited with Lois Cunniff, a long-time friend who had worked with him in television in New York City. She was his devoted partner until the end of his life. While health permitted, they enjoyed their shared love of travel, dining, and music.

The family would like to thank Chaparral House for its excellent and cheerful care of Andrew during the last year of his life. Donations in his name can be made to Appalshop Archives, which houses and is the grateful steward of his Appalachia portfolio.