Pearlstein sitting and smiling and wearing a hat
Ned Pearlstein. Credit: Raymond Holbert

Surrounded by family and friends, educator and activist Ned Pearlstein passed away in his Berkeley home on Oct. 15. He was 94 years old. One former colleague describes Ned as “argumentative, opinionated, loquacious, charming, and loved by nearly all who knew him.”

Ned was born and raised in New York City. He loved to tell the story of how he and some of his wild teenage friends headed west in a stolen car. Arrested in Oklahoma, they spent a couple nights in jail before being retrieved by their parents. Ned was sent west soon after, to complete his high school education while living with his Aunt Ruth in Claremont, California.

Ned earned a B.A. degree in Liberal Arts, Business and Public Administration from Claremont Men’s College. After a brief stint in law school, he enlisted in the army and was sent to Korea, where he served from November 1951 to August 1953. After military service, Ned returned to southern California, earning an M.A. degree in Economics from Claremont Men’s College. He then came to Berkeley to work on a Ph.D. After some temporary research teaching jobs he decided to become a full time instructor at Laney College, teaching economics and math, a position he held for 30 years.

In addition to his teaching duties at Laney, Ned was a faculty activist, serving terms as president of both the faculty senate and the faculty union, the Peralta Federation of Teachers. At Laney Ned established friendships with coworkers and students that lasted for the rest of his life.

Ned was also active in the community, supporting union organizing campaigns and participating in demonstrations against war and racism. An avid sailor with a small boat in the Berkeley Marina, he was a member of the Peace Navy, which carried out waterborne protests against the military presence in San Francisco Bay, including Fleet Week.

Ned is survived by five daughters from his marriage to Connie Pearlstein: Andrea (John), Lisa (Harrison), Jessica (Christopher), Tamara (Bill), and Sara (Dan), and 15 grandchildren.

Ned is preceded in death by his wife of over 50 years, Anne Rogin Blau, who passed away in 2020. Ned is survived by three stepdaughters: Rachel (John), Felicity (Mike), and Katy (Dan), and seven stepgrandchildren.

In his later years, Ned was an active member of the Tuesday Lunch Group, made up of friends who meet each week to eat and discuss and debate the state of the world. One participant remembers Ned “seated on his throne, laughing and holding forth.” Another recalls Ned’s “wonderful, infectious laugh.” The lunch group celebrated Ned’s 94th birthday in July.

Family members, friends, colleagues, and generations of Laney students were touched by Ned’s long and full life. He will be missed but not forgotten.

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