Campus remembers John Kramer

Professor of political science Andrew Merrifield was a good friend of the late John Kramer and worked with him in the same department for almost 30 years at Sonoma State University. The two met when Kramer was interviewing Merrifield for a job in the political science department.

“John was brilliant, resourceful, peculiar and incredibly dedicated to his students,” said Merrifield. “We will never have anyone quite like John.”

Kramer passed away in late February.

At age 75, he lost his life after an eight-month battle with brain cancer. While known as an instructor, Kramer was very involved outside of Sonoma State University. According to the Press Democrat article published on Feb. 28, “his varied interests spanned from Baroque choral music to organic cooking; winemaking to baseball.”

Kramer helped build a community building in Guinea, West Africa in 1961. This experience changed Kramer’s interest from physics to political activism. He then earned a Ph.D. in political science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kramer, originally from Cincinnati, earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and a master’s degree in physics from the University of Illinois.

“He was unique. Despite his dedication and hard work, he was hilariously funny. He took his job seriously and absolutely nothing else, said Merrifield. “Nobody could get under his skin. A day with him—whether it [is] in class or a senate meeting—was an adventure.”

In 1970, Kramer earned a job on the Sonoma State University faculty, which lasted for 40 years.

“With a trademark floppy bush hat atop a grey mane and a mug of herbal tea in hand, Kramer lectured hundreds of students on American political systems and politics and the media,” referenced from the Press Democrat.

He was also a devoted baseball fan and would travel to Arizona every spring to watch the San Francisco Giants play in Spring Training with family and friends.

Kramer was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1987 to study public broadcasting and spent the year living in Italy and Spain with his family. He and his wife, Nancy Dobbs, traveled often visiting places like Europe, Argentina and the Canadian Arctic.

He lived with Dobbs and had three children: Annie Dobbs Kramer, Andrew Dobbs Kramer and Ian Dobbs Dixon. Kramer and Dobbs designed their house near Freestone; Kramer worked on constructing the house.

According to Dobbs, “He [Kramer] was a fantastic cook,” referenced from the Press Democrat. Dobbs added how Kramer would pluck fresh basil from their garden and whip up delicious pesto pasta.

Not only was Kramer an excellent cook, but he enjoyed making his own wine with freshly grown grapes. Kramer and Dobbs often hosted dinner parties for family and friends as well. Kramer served on the board of Sonoma County Conservation Action for more than 20 years and also as part of the steering committee of Sebastopol Tomorrow, working as an opponent of the CVS development.

According to the Sonoma County Conservation Action website, SCCA is a nonpartisan, political arm of Sonoma County’s environmental movement. They have many goals, one of which is to create and maintain environmental majorities on the local City Councils and Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Una Glass, longtime friend and fellow SCCA board member, met Kramer and Dobbs at Sonoma State University as a student at the age of 19. Kramer encouraged Glass to join the political science department.

“If you had never met John, you missed out,” said Merrifield. “If you knew him, you would know if there was anything he was more dedicated to then his students, it would be his family.”

There will be a memorial for Kramer on April 19 at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol from 2-4 p.m.