SAN FRANCISCO -- Raul Ramirez, the dynamic force behind the KQED newsroom for 22 years and a longtime journalism educator, died Friday after a brief battle with esophageal cancer. He was 67.
Described as "remarkable," "encouraging" and "inspirational," Ramirez spent more than 40 years working in journalism, in a career that spanned from Miami to Washington, D.C., to the Bay Area.
"He is one person that, quite frankly, public radio and public media benefited from so dramatically," said KQED Vice President Jo Anne Wallace. "He was both a remarkable colleague and just a great person. I will miss his complete spirit and his joy and his love of journalism."
A man who left his mark on numerous newspapers before taking over one of the most prominent news radio stations in the Bay Area, Ramirez's career included work as a reporter for The Miami Herald and the Washington Post, and as a reporter and editor for the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Examiner, where he led the paper's investigative team.
In his many years as a journalist, he also held lecturer positions in both UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and San Francisco State's Journalism Department for more than 20 years.
Former student Jackie Backman said Ramirez's influence on his students' writing and journalism skills were unparalleled. While he was intimidating and expected the best of his students, she said, he never wavered in doing anything he could to help them achieve what he expected of them.
"I just don't see the journalism industry having another Raul. Ever," she said. "The legacy he left behind will be carried out for years to come because his students all absorbed what he had. And we are going to pass that down the line."
In a tribute video posted to YouTube just a week before his death, San Francisco State Journalism Department Chair Cristina Azocar said Ramirez's greatest gift to the journalism profession was that everyone thought him a "consummate gentleman" and that he always instilled that in his teaching and his actions.
"He never tired (of teaching) and his passion never dwindled," she said Friday. "There is no other like him. ... And he wanted to pass it along, so that others could come after him."
Born in 1946 in Havana, Ramirez graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville. In addition to his career in newspapers and news radio, he served as the president of the board of The Center for Investigative Reporting in the 1990s and won numerous awards for local, national and international reporting. Among his honors were a Thomas Storke Award from the World Affairs Council of Northern California for his reporting on a family's journey from rural Guandong Province in China to the San Francisco area, and a 1989 Penney-Missouri Award as a co-editor of the San Francisco Examiner's unique series "Gay in America."
He is survived by his husband, Tony Wu; his sister, Miriam Gargiulo of West Palm Beach, Fla.; two brothers, Michael Greenhill of Wellington, Fla., and Eduardo Ramirez of Reddick, Fla.; three nephews and three nieces.
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The Raul Ramirez Diversity in Journalism Fund has been established at San Francisco State. Ramirez's family has requested that donations in his memory be made to that fund.
Tax-deductible donations may be made by check or online.
Checks should be made out to The San Francisco State University Foundation with a notation that the donation is for "The Raul Ramirez Diversity in Journalism Fund." Please mail to Office of University Development, ATTN: Andrea Rouah, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave., ADM 153, San Francisco, CA 94132.
To donate online, go to www.sfsu.edu/~develop/makeagift.htm. Select "Other" from the drop-down menu of I Would Like to Support and type into the text box If Other, Enter Designation: "The Raul Ramirez Diversity in Journalism Fund."