After more than 30 years of being a huge part of this campus, Sonoma State University says goodbye to Bruce Berkowitz as he enters retirement.
Many faculty and students know Berkowitz as always being a helpful and friendly face to anyone he encounters.
Berkowitz, the program coordinator for Associated Student Productions (ASP), never thought he would see himself being in this position 40 years ago.
He grew up in New York and had attended school for a few years before he decided to venture out on his own in 1975.
Berkowitz knew people in California and proceeded to make his way cross-country and in a few months found himself in San Francisco with his friends.
Realizing that this new transition wasn’t really working out like he had hoped, Berkowitz made a decision that would change the rest of his life.
“I thought maybe its time to go back to school,” said Berkowitz, “back when school was still about $100 a semester and you were a little more free with things.”
He remembers taking a drive up north to Sonoma County to visit a friend when he saw a sign on the side of Highway 101.
“It said ‘Sonoma State College,” said Berkowitz. “I thought, ‘Well that seems like an interesting place.’”
At the time, SSU was made up of about 4,000 transfer and reentry students.
He applied and was admitted in 1977 and later graduated in 1980 with a degree in media studies.
While Berkowitz attended SSU, he enjoyed being involved with his fellow classmates, coming together to make the campus a lively place for students to call their own.
He met a lot of people working at KSUN, the campus’ student run radio station.
During this time, the Associated Students program was not active because the students had voted themselves out of business, feeling that they weren’t helping their peers as much as they should.
There was, however, a Board of Directors for the Student Union.
Berkowitz, already spending time at the former Student Union on his own, was then encouraged to run for a position on the board.
“It sounded interesting and it was the only game in town,” said Berkowitz, “and also at the time I was involved in trying to get a pub on campus.”
The process of getting a pub on campus at SSU, as explained by Berkowitz, was an incredibly informative reality.
“As you can imagine, trying to get alcohol on campus, opening up the place, everything from food service to top level administration,” said Berkowitz. “I had to deal with everybody.”
Achieving a position on the board and getting the pub approved and opened was part of the excitement that made Berkowitz consider maybe taking this position and turning it into a more permanent role on campus.
“I did it as a student, just faking my way through and learning how to do things,” said Berkowitz. “I found a few other allies and we put some programs together.”
After putting together a job description for the work he was already putting in, Berkowitz was finally deemed Program Coordinator for ASP and has been helping put on various programs and events for the student body ever since.
Berkowitz gives some credit for being so eager to be involved to his mother, who was very involved in her community in New York.
“My mom did a lot of community organizing and things so I was around it, but it was always a pain in the ass because she was always running around, always going to programs and events,” said Berkowitz. “So I don’t know if I thought it was that great, but I guess I was around the energy of it and I think it appealed on that level.”
Berkowitz remembers the classic complaint of there not being much going on here or there’s nothing to do around campus for the students and he wanted to make it his mission to change that.
“I was just trying to make things happen, because [I had] come from New York where everything seemed to be happening,” said Berkowitz. “I was trying to replicate that.”
Since the start of his career, Berkowitz has been a part of more than 3,000 programs at SSU including various concerts, shows, and lectures.
One of the more recent productions Berkowitz has helped ASP put on was the Orange is the New Black lecture last semester that featured Piper Kerman.
Berkowitz says that he will not miss the constant worry for perfection, but rather the faculty and most importantly the students that he has had the chance to collaborate with and watch develop into strong leaders over the years.
`“I’ll miss the engagement,” said Berkowitz. “The people here (at ASP) have made a decision to commit to something. To do more than classes, to be engaged in programs and come up with ideas that are out of the ordinary.”
As far as plans for life after retirement, Berkowitz wants to focus on his soon to be 17-year-old daughter and help her through the early process of selecting and applying to colleges.
Aside from that, he would like to stay involved in community service and go wherever the universe takes him.
Berkowitz would like to leave SSU students with a few words of wisdom.
“I would like you all to know a couple of important things. First of all, you have way more potential power and authority than you think you have. Too many SSU students, and students in general, play life small when they could really go for it and get a whole lot more out of the experience. Secondly, get involved! Get involved in organizations, get involved in committees, whatever it is; you’re going to learn a whole lot about yourself and about other people. And lastly, own this building. You students paid a lot of money for this new student center so make it your own.”
Berkowitz will be appreciated and missed for his generous hard work making sure students have the opportunity to enjoy their college experience and for that, SSU would like to wish him off to a happy and well-deserved retirement.