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Subject: Scholar, author Robert Brentano

died of an asthma attack
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Date Posted: November 27, 2002 10:08:01 EDT

Robert Brentano, 76, a scholar and author on medieval English and Italian history who taught at UC Berkeley for half a century, died Thursday at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley after an asthma attack. He suffered a stroke two years ago.

Born in Evansville, Ind., Brentano earned his bachelor's degree at Swarthmore College and his doctorate from Oxford University in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He took the first teaching job that came along -- at UC Berkeley in 1952 -- and was still teaching at his death. Active in the Academic Senate, of which he was chairman in 1999, he worked continuously to open the university to minorities, women, and disabled and poor students.

Brentano, who was related to the family of the publishing and bookstore chain Brentano but never worked in that business, wrote six books. Among them was "Rome Before Avignon: A Social History of 13th-Century Rome," published in 1974. Times book critic Robert Kirsch called the work "elegantly written, erudite, deeply moving."

At Berkeley, Brentano was a highly popular teacher of introductory history and advanced courses in British history. He was named California Professor of the Year in 1986 by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. Five years later, he was given the Clark Kerr Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education by the Academic Senate.

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