NOTE added 3/20/12: A celebration of Ray Colvig’s life is scheduled for 2-5 p.m. Saturday, March 31, in UC Berkeley’s Faculty Club.
Berkeley – Ray Colvig, who for 27 years was the spokesman for UC Berkeley and a beloved leader of the campus’s Public Information Office until his retirement in 1991, died Sunday, March 4, of sudden heart problems at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley. He was 80, and passed away among his family and friends.
From 1964 until 1991, Colvig served as manager of the campus’s former Public Information Office. His tenure spanned the upheavals of the Free Speech Movement, anti-Vietnam protests, People’s Park riots and the Patty Hearst kidnapping, not to mention UC Berkeley’s rise to academic and research excellence rivaling that of Harvard and MIT. He served seven chancellors, from Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg to Chang-Lin Tien.
“He had an encyclopedic knowledge and instant recall of so much of the history of Berkeley from the 1960s to the 1990s,” said John Cummins, former chief of staff to four UC Berkeley chancellors, who worked closely with Colvig. “He was a speech writer for chancellors, an eminent science reporter and a critic and mentor of countless reporters who began their careers at the Daily Californian. He was a firm believer in telling the whole story truthfully and in a timely fashion. ‘Spin’ was not in his vocabulary. For that, he had the total respect of the media and always put Berkeley’s best foot forward.”
Colvig also was a die-hard Cal fan: He and his late wife, Norma, had season tickets to all football and basketball home games. An avid hiker, he climbed to the top of Mt. Shasta in Northern California several dozen times and loved to hike in the Klamath and Cascade mountains, near to his cabin on the upper Sacramento River.
After his retirement, he collaborated with Seaborg on two books: “Chancellor at Berkeley,” about Seaborg’s years as chancellor, and “Roses from the ashes: breakup and rebirth in Pacific Coast intercollegiate athletics.” He also wrote “Turning Points and Ironies: Issues and Events–Berkeley, 1959-67,” about the turbulent 1960s and the tempestuous tenure of UC Berkeley’s first chancellor, Clark Kerr.
Colvig, who was born in Weed, Calif., on March 23, 1931, graduated from UC Berkeley in 1953 with a degree in English and journalism. He earned a master’s degree in English from Cornell University in 1954, and after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, became an agricultural news writer, first at UC Davis and then at UC Berkeley. He joined UC Berkeley’s Public Information Office as a science writer in 1959 and was appointed manager in 1964.
He maintained his interest in science writing, and was a cofounder of the Northern California Science Writers Association.
Colvig is survived by two sons, Daniel of Sonoma and Timothy of Orinda; daughter Julia Angell of Richmond; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandson.
The family is planning a memorial service.