Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Page 1


Philanthropist Alba Witkin Dies of Cardiac Arrest at 95

Was Widow of Legal-Treatise Writer Bernard Witkin


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Alba Witkin, a philanthropist who in 1982 founded the Bernard E. and Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation, has died at the age of 95, surviving her husband, legal scholar Bernard Witkin, by 19 years.



The foundation, initially funded solely from proceeds from Bernard Witkin’s 37 volumes of legal treatises, has facilitated distribution of more than $15 million within the Bay Area.

On March 21, Alba Witkin was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame, a project of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Alameda County Health Care Foundation, and the Alameda County Commission on the Status of Women.

In a video posted on YouTube on April 8 by the Hall of Fame, she is seen reciting how she pitched the idea to her husband of starting the foundation, saying:

“There was money coming in, and what could you do? You had two overcoats. You had two cars. You had two homes. You had two everything.

“And so I said, ‘Why can’t we start to help others who need help?’ And that’s the way it started.

“He said, ‘Oh, I never thought about that.’ But he wasn’t interested in money.”

His focus, she noted, was on the law.

Termed ‘Generous,’ ‘Energetic’

Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Norman L. Epstein of this district’s Div. Four, who was co-author with Bernard Witkin of the three-volume treatise on California Criminal Law (and now author), said yesterday that Alba Witkin “will be remembered by everyone who knew her—and that’s a large number—as a gracious, generous and energetic lady.”

He went on to recite:

“She was an accomplished leader in her own right, having served a member and president of the Sacramento Civil Service commission, legislative advocate for the Sacramento League of Women Voters,  a two-term elected member of the Sacramento school board, and member of numerous state and national advisory commissions. With Bernie, she was especially active in providing grant money to organizations dedicated to helping the disadvantaged and the arts, and inspiring others to do the same.”

Baron Comments

Retired Court of Appeal Justice Elizabeth Baron reflected:

“Alba deserves the highest of tributes from all Californians as she was perhaps its most wonderful and unique humanitarian.

“When Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Mize was President of the California Judges Association, he came up with the idea that CJA create a Humanitarian Award to honor those judges among its members who give so much to their communities. I suggested that the award be named after Alba Witkin because she didn’t just ‘create’ the Bernard E. and Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation; she actually sat down at her dining room table and went through lists of charitable organizations and people that needed her personal financial help and determined how much money each needed.

“To sit with her and her personal assistant and watch how she used her heart and intelligence in making those decisions was an inspiration to me that had a profound effect on my life.”

Mize commented:

“The world has lost a hero, a quiet woman who spoke with her irresistible voice of moral righteousness. The California Judges Association is honored and privileged to have Alba’s name permanently affixed to an award that recognizes goodness in people. May she rest in peace and may her spirit permeate us all during this season and throughout the years.”

Witkin earned a bachelor’s degree in 1941 from Fresno State College, graduating with highest honors, and was class valedictorian. The following year, she received a master’s degree in public personnel administration from Stanford University.


Bernard Witkin is seen in undated photograph with wife, Alba Witkin.


She proceeded to work with the American Friends Service Committee in relocating Japanese American youths from the World War II West Coast internment camps to eastern and midwestern colleges.

Witkin held membership on various boards including the Governor’s Conference on Juvenile Delinquency and the California Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

She died Friday night, with family members present. The cause of death was set as cardiac arrest.

Witkin is survived by Kenneth Kuchman, a son by her first marriage (to the late Carl Kuchman, who was an attorney), and three grandchildren. Kenneth Kuchman has been director of the Bernard E. & Alba Witkin Charitable Foundation since 2007.

Funeral arrangements have not been set.


Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company