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Volume 59, Number 25    February 27 , 2011         

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In Memoriam

Bernice Prince Biggs
Professor Emerita of English Bernice Prince Biggs, died of a stroke on Feb. 3 while surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Biggs was 89 years old.

Biggs was born in Alliance, Nebraska and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Nebraska in 1944 with majors in English and Education. After a brief stint editing Student Life for the National Education Association, she completed a Ph.D. in Speech Communication at the University of Denver. She joined the San Francisco State University English Department in 1950 and retired in 1992.

She filled many roles on campus, including: Director of the Reading and Reading/Writing Laboratory in the 1950s; chair of the Academic Senate (1984-86); member of the CSU Academic Senate, where she held several leadership positions; founding member, board member and vice president of Phi Beta Kappa; and founding member, board member and president of the Friends of the Library.

Biggs was also known as an advisor who could solve many problems and an innovator who instituted programs for students to earn university credit for life and work experience. She co-founded the Humanities Club for Elders and formed the Women's Breakfast Club to help women learn how to navigate campus politics. Biggs also co-edited A Focus on Rebellion (1962), a study of media coverage of the 1950s House Un-American Committee hearings.

As a woman of conscience, she joined the 1968-69 strike at San Francisco State and later served as campus president of the United Professors of California (UPC) from 1979 to 1983. When UPC lost by a few votes to the California Faculty Association (CFA) in the collective bargaining agent election, she joined CFA and served as Political Action Chair in 1986-87.

She held Fulbright teaching appointments at the University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain (1966-68) and at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland (1973-74).

Bernice was also active in community affairs: she was a founding member of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library; president of the Democratic Women's Forum and recipient of their 2007 Eleanor Roosevelt Award; board member for ACLU of Northern California; member of the San Francisco Grand Jury; a long-time member and three-term trustee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society where she also was president and program chair of the Society for Community Work, honored with the Rheiner Award for lifelong community service, and a trustee of the Hinckley Fund. In later years she could be found advocating against the death penalty, protesting the war in Iraq, and lobbying in Sacramento for the rights of senior citizens.

An avid birder, Biggs enjoyed walking Golden Gate Park and the renovated Crissy Field, though she preferred Stow Lake for the Annual Christmas Bird Count. Her many interests included quilting, beekeeping (despite an allergy to bee stings) and she loved music and the theatre, making annual trips to New York, London and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Biggs is survived by her sister, Doris Prince of San Jose, four children, eight grandchildren, her sister-in-law Marjorie Jean Prince of Lincoln, Nebraska and many nieces and nephews.

A Memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 3 at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, 1187 Franklin St. at Geary St. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in memory of Bernice Biggs to the organization listed on the memorial website at -- colleagues are asked to visit the site and share their recollections.

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Last modified February 23, 2011 by University Communications.