Jeff Lustig, a noted California studies scholar who taught government and was a faculty leader at California State University, Sacramento, died June 14 of pancreatic cancer, his family said. He was 69.
A bearded and bespectacled intellectual, Mr. Lustig was devoted to understanding and promoting his native California as a community of active citizens. He was a prolific writer and advocate of big ideas for reinventing state governance, including a constitutional convention. Since his early days as an activist in the 1960s Free Speech Movement, he encouraged others to get involved in building a better form of government and society.
A self-described "migrant intellectual worker," he taught at colleges from Arcata to Riverside before joining Sacramento State as a government professor in 1987. He also served as director of the CSUS Center for California Studies from 1989 to 1992.
"He was an exceptionally talented teacher, and he engaged his students exceedingly well," former department chairwoman Jean Torcom said. "He was a first-rate intellectual and someone I admired enormously."
After conducting a survey of California-related courses taught at all CSU campuses, Mr. Lustig called for the establishment of California studies as a full-fledged academic program. He founded the California Studies Association in 1989 and invited scholars, environmentalists, writers, politicians, artists and others to the first of many annual conferences to discuss the state's past, present and future.
Passionately liberal, he also was active in labor issues and the role of universities in public life. He spoke out against efforts to impose business models on universities that marginalize the liberal arts and the importance of educating citizens. He was a past president of the Sacramento chapter of the California Faculty Association and also served as secretary of the statewide organization.
Richard Jeffrey Lustig was born in 1943 in San Diego. He was 1961 valedictorian at Point Loma High School in San Diego. He earned bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in political science from UC Berkeley, where he was arrested at free-speech demonstrations.
He taught at University of California, Riverside, UC Berkeley and Humboldt State University before joining Sacramento State. He also taught intermittently for many years at Deep Springs College, a private, liberal arts school in the desert east of Bishop.
Mr. Lustig spent 10 years as director of the California Studies Association. He also served on the boards of Heyday Press and the California Historical Society.
Until his retirement in 2010, he commuted to work in Sacramento from Berkeley, where he lived with his wife, Nora Elliott. Besides hiking and camping, he enjoyed sketching, painting and lettering. He also worked on carpentry and home-repair projects.
"He was into different forms of creativity," said his brother Steve. "He was an incredible artist."