In Memory of Yale Braunstein

The School of Information is sad to announce that Yale Braunstein, long-time professor in the School of Information, passed away on July 25, 2012, after a brief illness.

Thoughts, Memories, and Photos Shared by Yale's Friends & Colleagues

October 17, 2012

Alas! it is not possible for me to attend the memorial for Yale this afternoon.  Let me say a few words about him, based on our acquaintance for a couple of years on the systemwide faculty welfare committee.  Yale & I both came to the University of California after serving on the faculty at Brandeis University (although at different times).  Brandeis was (and perhaps still is) a remarkably autocratic institution, and we frequently traded stories about our respective sojourns in Waltham.  It was a welcome balm from committee work in Oakland, and we agreed that the UC bureaucracy (burdensome though it sometimes turns out to be) was vastly preferable to the dictatorial administration of Brandeis.  Yale's sense of humor — and his good sense in other respects, as well — are sorely missed.

—Tom Morton, Dept of Chemistry, UC Riverside
October 10, 2012

I am now in Italy on sabbatical leave, and the news of Yale's death has come to me as a sad surprise.  I came to know him primarily through his Senate service on the Faculty Welfare Committee and Emeriti Relations.  His combination of insightfulness and modesty was an unusual one in academic life, and I always enjoyed committee meetings where he was present. 

—Jan de Vries
October 6, 2012

This is what I learned from Yale: that the maximize net benefits rule will create the same outcomes as the golden rule. My recollection of his rationale is hazy but I think it went something like this.

Using the basic formula - to maximize net benefit, increase or decrease the level of activity until the marginal benefit from the activity equals the marginal cost of the activity or MB=MC - Yale then went on to prove that the cost of treating someone else as you would like to be treated had to equal the benefits of being treated by that person in a similar manner. Perhaps his reasoning was that to maximize net benefits you should make all changes that increase your benefits without increasing your costs. Therefore, if the amount of energy (cost) you expend to treat someone well is the same as the benefit you receive by being treated well in return, then you have maximized your net benefit.

Even though I have no assurance that I have re-created his argument perfectly, I am certain that I understood what he meant. Just as I am certain that he lived by his maximize net benefits rule and that I, and his other students, were better off for it.

—Susan Oberlander, PhD class of 2000
September 19, 2012

 I still quote Professor Braunstein after all these years.

—Susan Anderes, MLIS '85
August 17, 2012

Yale was an active participant in the OE IT Team a year or so ago.  Insightful comments, piercing (but friendly) questions, unwavering patience and humor.  His thoughtfulness at every turn was always welcome, even as the voice over the phone.  Rest well... thank you.

—Dianne Walker
August 15, 2012

Yale was one of the first people I met when I arrived to SIMS in 1999. He was immediately welcoming, warm, and funny. His research and teaching related to a field I was very much interested in, and I felt so lucky to be able to interact with such a wonderful person and mentor (not to talk about the shared love for Italian cars and Alfa Romeos). Visiting back the bay area will feel a little different, now that he is away.

—Alessandro Acquisti
August 7, 2012

I was deeply saddened to hear of Yale's passing. The Berkeley faculty has lost a real gentleman. I had the honor and pleasure of working with Yale on faculty welfare matters in the Senate, most recently on changes to our pension system and healthcare affordability. I very much appreciated his thoughtful approach to problems, and overriding kindness.

—Fiona Doyle
August 6, 2012

Yale made friendships easy. He always expressed interest in who you were and what you thought. He met all with spirited engagement. His bright intelligence, wide experience and encyclopedic knowledge were put to bear on any discussion, not to promote himself or put you down or declare himself right, but rather he used these huge resources to bring more enlightenment to the discussion. Sure he made critical remarks, wry comments and funny rejoinders but always in the spirit of expanding the discussion and engagement.

I knew Yale only informally and sporadically. Our discussions were about politics, current events and history; the outcome of these discussions was enrichment, humor and friendship. He was a shining light of this world.

—Tim Lennon
August 5, 2012

Yale was my friend and mentor and a tremendous influence on my life. As his Research Assistant, and then as one of his doctoral students, I spent countless hours talking with him in his office. Our conversations always began with whatever task needed attention, but without fail meandered into spirited discussions of current events, enriched by his many, many stories. Yale and I shared similar political perspectives, so often these talks were a mutual effort to try to understand what seemed so baffling in the world of government and public policy. We also shared an inclination towards activism, which he carried with him from his days as a graduate student at Stanford. This sensibility wasn't just a part of his past though.  When students at what was still the Library School organized protests in the mid-90's to keep South Hall open as a library school, Yale proudly joined with us in a press conference in front of the building, speaking as a faculty member and thus publicly supporting our efforts to keep a vibrant and important program alive.

Yale was a dedicated supporter of his students as they worked to achieve their academic and professional goals. He was always willing to help me untangle a bureaucratic problem with the university or a theoretical knot in my own research. In my current job providing open access publishing services to UC researchers, I am finding that his analysis of the economics of information and scholarly communication are as relevant today as ever; I will miss the conversations we no doubt would have had about his latest perspectives on these issues. But it is more than his sharp intellect that I will miss, there are all of Yale's other wonderful qualities—a deep concern for justice and equality, great integrity, a wry sense of humor and most of all, a generous spirit. I will miss him greatly, but I will always feel so fortunate to have known him.

—Lisa Schiff
August 5, 2012

Yale was a major influence in the fundamental shift in my career direction that occurred at Berkeley. I worked as a manager of software engineering and manufacturing-related departments before coming to U.C. Berkeley to earn a doctorate – at the then School of Library and Information Studies. I had envisioned a career as a senior consultant at McKinsey or another international consulting firm upon graduation.

Information economics was a small specialty and so there were generally no courses offered in the School. Thus, I worked a lot one-on-one with Yale (formally through “Independent Studies” courses) in a tutorial manner. I learned about the work of Fritz Machlup, Marc Porat, and Stanley Besen. I learned about Yale’s work with the Office of Technology Assessment in the U.S. Congress and with the U.S. Department of Commerce; he was the author of a major early report on information policy. He taught me about financial management in not-for-profit organizations. Consequently, I became interested in a career in national public policy and the public interest. I shall be forever grateful to Yale for truly broadening my horizons – doctoral student mentoring at its best.

Some of our best moments involved the Wall Street Journal. Yale and I were both daily readers of the newspaper. Though a quality publication overall, sometimes the editorials were, let’s say, interesting to us. Sometimes he would say to me, hey did you read THAT one…we both looked at each other and get that look – a kind of smiley smirk. In my mind, I can still see him sitting at his desk with that indescribable smile, reacting in wonder to one of those editorials.

—Alan Inouye (Ph.D., '97)
August 5, 2012
Alan Inouye

Some of you may remember the effort to close the School in the early 1990s. The graduate students and alumni worked together to advocate to keep the school open. As a part of our advocacy, we had a press conference in front of South Hall. Yale was very supportive of our work and took part in the press conference, as you will see in the accompanying photos.

—Alan Inouye
August 3, 2012

It was seven years ago when Anno asked me to become a Lecturer at the I School. While thrilled with the opportunity, I was more than a little freaked-out to have the responsibility of leading a class (having no experience in this domain). But Yale took me under his wing, as I shared teaching responsibilities with him for one session of Info Systems Design. In the years since Yale was always a kind, gentle, and effective mentor … always positive, always smiling: always constructive. I’ll miss hearing his laugh echo around South Hall.

—Michael Schaffer
August 3, 2012
Isabella Reichert

We met Yale when spending a semester as visiting students at the School of Information, where he was our host. Throughout our stay, Yale not only provided us with the help and advice we needed to work on our projects, but welcomed and supported us in a way which was far beyond what we expected. His true interest in our thoughts, ideas and plans and his accessibility not only as our professor but as our mentor and true supporter made him an exceptional professor and a person that we will fondly remember.

The picture was taken when Yale invited us for dinner shortly after our arrival in 2009. He joked with us when he saw us arriving on our bikes, delayed, exhausted, and hungry. He drove us back home by car that night so we would not get lost in the Berkeley hills again.

We will truly miss him. Christian, Claudius, Eva & Isabella

—Isabella Reichert
August 2, 2012

My last conversation with Yale was about what he was trying to do to help me with an administrative issue. He was trying bear the brunt of the situation directing blame towards himself and away from me. This was really typical of my interactions with Yale. He was amazingly supportive of junior faculty and took a lot of stressful and time consuming aspects of the job off of our shoulders. Also, he had a hilarious laugh.

—Jenna Burrell
August 2, 2012

I met Yale as our host during our stay as visiting students (from the CDTM program in Munich) at the I School last year in Spring. By now he has hosted several generations of students from our program and we are all very sad about this loss. Yale was a great friend and supporter of our program and made sure that each and and every one of us visitors were taken care of. He visited Munich several times and at one point even gave the commencement speech for our CDTM program.

Yale was an inspiring man to all of us. It was always impressive to see an accomplished man like Yale getting excited about new things and ideas. One could feel that he hadn't lost the enthusiam for changing things. His offer to help out whenever necessary was one that could be counted on. He always had this witty attitude towards solving problems and pointing out ways on how to work around any red tape if necessary.   

I remember that we had several dinners with him and his family where Yale was never short of an interesting new story. He was an avid story teller and his trademark laughter slowly blending in after each punch line will never be forgotten. His passion for European and German culture, fast cars, good food, beer and wine was always a great source for countless conversations with him that we truly enjoyed.

Spending a semester at the I School was a great opportunity for me personally and I'm deeply grateful to Yale for making this possible. I wish his family all the best and I'm happy that I had the chance to meet a great man like him.

—Julian Riediger
August 1, 2012

Working with Yale was always interesting, a learning lesson and most importantly — one-on-one (no matter how many other people were around). He was gentle, kind, giving and loyal. His laughter and joy in life will be missed on the campus and by me. I always felt heard and appreciated when talking to Yale. He was on your team and you were part of his team and his colleague, no matter your title or status. I can honestly say that after every conversation with Yale, I would either be smiling or laughing. We have all lost one amazing and genuine human being.

—Anita Ross
August 1, 2012

I am deeply saddened by this news and I wish Yale's family and friends all my best.

Yale was a wonderfully humane and generous person and something of an avuncular figure to me, offering invaluable advice, humor, and wit. I will warmly remember him as a great mentor and kind hearted soul that brought so much to the community at South Hall.

—Eric C. Kansa
August 1, 2012
Nancy Van House

Outside Yale's office, the day we learned of his passing.

—Nancy Van House
July 31, 2012

My friendship with Yale began in the late 70’s when he was teaching at NYU and I was working in Boston. In 1983, I came to the I school (then SLIS) as a doctoral student and that spring there was a faculty search underway for an information management professor.  Michael Buckland, who was then dean, asked me to contact Yale to see if he might be interested in applying for the position. Yale had completed his doctorate at Stanford, and I knew that he and Betsy were eager to get back to west coast.  As Yale was an information economist, I wasn’t sure that he would be interested in coming to a library school, but I called him and he ended up at SLIS the following year.  I am so grateful that I played a bit part in bringing him to Cal where he had such a memorable, remarkable career.

Yale was a truly amazing guy. He was passionate about his family, caring about his friends and his students, strong in his beliefs, with a true sense of what was just and right. He had a great sense of humor, a keen intelligence and a zest for living life to the fullest. One of my fondest memories comes from the late 70’s when a group of us were attending a conference in New Hampshire and we took the afternoon off to go off on a driving marathon around the area. There were a few guys there with their special cars…Yale’s Lancia, a Porche, and old MGB and the "in" technology of that time was the CB radio. We all had such fun out in the country, tearing up those mountain roads while spinning yarns back and forth on those CB's, and listening in on the conversations of others out on the road.

Yale was there for me every step of the way for the 6 years it took me to finally get that Ph.D. When I finally graduated, he and Betsy had a wonderful lunch for me and my family at their home after the ceremony. I couldn't have done it without his constant support and encouragement. And I know he has had that same impact on so many other students over the years.  He is gone from us too soon, and it is hard to imagine this world with no Yale Braunstein.

—Karen Ceppos
July 31, 2012

While I was at SIMS, I was Yale's TA.  Getting to work with him was entertaining & wonderful.  His spirit was infectious and he had such a wonderful way of appreciating those around him.  You always left meeting with him feeling great.  After I finished school,  he often attended events at my friend's winery when I'd be helping out.  I was always surprised and flattered that he'd show up at these events.  It was a treat to have some wine and catch up with him; hearing his enthusiasm for his family & his work was so heartening.  He was an amazing man and mentor.

Since hearing of his passing, I've been surprised how many times... I've smiled and felt sadness and some tears well up as I imagine hearing his "Ahhhhhhh" pause as he figures out where he wants to take us next with his many stories.  

—Margaret Spring
July 31, 2012

When I came to SLIS as a foreign student (1985-1991) I knew next to nothing about computers, let alone the wherewithall to purchase one of my own. As I was also Yale's R.A., he let me use his whenever he wasn't in the office (which, given that I was a night owl, actually worked quite well.) At the time, I was grateful but it wasn't until I was a faculty member myself that I realized what an act of trust it was. But that was Yale: generous to a fault, particularly with University property :-)

By foreign, I mean Canadian, which leads to my story. One day, the Secret Service was nosing around South Hall asking questions about me. Gennie called Yale from the Front Office, and I happened to be with him office at the time. Yale's first instinct was to tell me to run, and he'd deal with them. Never one to ignore good advice, I ran. Turns out all they wanted to know if I had actually enrolled. Nonetheless, Yale considered himself quite the hero!

I loved him very much, and my life is a little less bright, knowing he is no longer among us.     

—Sue Easun
July 31, 2012

I will miss so much about Yale:  His shiny red car, his uncanny knack of knowing when we had treats in the office, his little boy enthusiasm for a great new restaurant find or an amazing bargained price bottle of wine.  His willingness to always step in as the unofficial ambassador of the I School and meet with all of our foreign visitors, regardless of their ability to speak english.   Yale was an amazing man, a scholar, a wonderful colleague, a gentleman and a trusted friend. However, what I will always remember and miss the most is his kindness. 

Yale - wherever you are now - "I hope they have fast cars, great food and good wine"

—Kristi Mitchell
July 31, 2012
Yale was a wonderful guy and great policy mentor. My favorite part about Yale was how he delivered jokes... it's as if he learned from the great comedians: he would say the punch line and then say, "Well..." or "Aaaaaaah...". The impression he gave that he was just continuing to talk when he'd just delivered a monster punchline was classic Yale. It's hard to describe this part of Yale's humor technique, but if you know what I'm talking about if you spent much time with him.
—Joseph Hall
July 30, 2012
Meg St. John

Yale was my boss, my mentor, and my friend.  I will miss his patience, his innate ability to see the big picture, his leadership, and his fabulous sense of humor. 

I am so grateful for all of the time that I got to spend with him.  I learned from him and am a better person because of him.  I hope that I will always carry a bit of his wisdom with me. 

—Meg St. John
July 30, 2012
UC Berkeley School of Information

Yale was a beloved colleague, advisor, teacher, scholar, and friend, and he will be deeply missed at the School of Information and across the Berkeley campus.

We know he meant a lot to a lot of different people, and we look forward to hearing your own reminiscences and tributes as we mourn his loss.

—UC Berkeley School of Information

Last updated:

December 17, 2012