By Nigel Flores
Julia Bergman, who played an instrumental role in the building of the Rosenberg Library and several schools in Central Asia,has died at age 71 due to complications following knee surgery.
Bergman served as a City College librarian for 33 years, retiring in 2008.
“Her role in the building of the [Rosenberg] library was every role you could imagine,” music department chair Madeline Mueller said, “she went in everyday with a hard-hat.”
Mueller, a City College employee of over 50 years, says that Bergman played a pivotal role in gaining special funding for the library from former California governor George Deukmejian.
City College librarian Karen Saginor recalls that Bergman educated herself thoroughly on the project and eventually began to review blueprints and attend construction meetings.
Bergman addressed even the smallest details, such as the height of chairs and the angle of lighting.
“We have students from all parts of the world, and some people are taller and some people are shorter,” Saginor recalls Bergman saying, “we don’t want to end up with chairs that won’t work for all of our students.”
Besides the library, the preservation of the Diego Rivera mural was a passion of Bergman’s.
Will Maynez worked with Bergman for 20 years and says that the two were “welded at the hip”.
“Scholars would come from all over the place wanting to know about the mural and she would show them what she had,” Maynez said.
Bergman worked to give people access to the mural and make information about it more readily available.
Maynez and Bergman were awarded the Art Deco Society of California 2015 Michael Crowe Preservation award.
During the summer, when she was away from her obligations as a librarian and roles as a City College activist, Bergman traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan. She was able to help build schools through her work as Board chair of the Central Asia Institute (CAI), which is an organization that serves remote areas in the region.
“When girls are educated there will be change. With change comes hope and with hope, maybe peace,” Bergman wrote in her Tamalis High School biography.
During her work with CAI, Bergman worked closely with Greg Mortenson, who co-authored “Three Cups of Tea” and was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
“Always know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem,” Bergman wrote. “I live it, although it’s hard to do sometimes. So that’s how I live my life. And I’m happy.”
Joy Durighello, who traveled with Bergman to Pakistan, said, “I still find it hard to believe that Julia’s enthusiasm and boundless energy are now gone from our midst, but I know she has left her legacy in many places and in many hearts. I feel immensely fortunate to have known her.”
A memorial celebration of her life is set for Saturday February 25th, 1 to 3, at the Pierre Coste faculty dining room.