Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Trustee Paulina Gonzalez Brito addresses the crowd at Berkeley City College’s 50th anniversary celebration. The event featured a block party along with a groundbreaking ceremony for the college’s new Milvia Street building. (Photo: Marcus Creel/PCCD)
‘We’re still rising’: BCC celebrates 50th anniversary
College throws block party and breaks ground on new building
Sam O'Neil, Associate Editor • May 6, 2024
College of Alameda jazz professor Glen Pearson demonstrates his musical talent on his classroom piano. Hes one of the newest members of the Count Basie Orchestra, a historic 18-piece jazz ensemble that took home a Grammy this year.
The humble Grammy-winning pianist leading CoA’s music program
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer • March 4, 2024
PCCDs classified employees pose for a pic at the first-ever professional development day for classified professionals. PCCD Chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson reflected on the event in her report to the Board of Trustees. (Source: PCCD)
Peralta’s leadership search, CCC public safety earmark, and “rumors” discussed at 4/9 meeting of PCCD Trustees
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer • April 24, 2024
Student Trustee Naomi Vasquez, who was sworn onto the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees on Dec. 12, 2023, sees her role as an opportunity to uplift her fellow students and advocate for the value of a community college education.
Student Trustee Naomi Vasquez aims to lift voices and empower students at PCCD
Isabelly Sabô Barbosa, Social Media Editor • February 28, 2024

The mystery woman behind Laney’s June Steingart gallery

Few remember the art professor and wife of Nobel Prize winner after whom the Laney art gallery was named

If you Google “June Steingart” the results will most likely relate to exhibits in the art gallery named after her in the lobby of the Tower building at Laney College.

Finding out more about the woman herself and why the gallery was named in her honor is a bigger challenge.

When The Citizen asked Robby Abrams, co-curator of the Shimmer exhibit currently on display at the Steingart gallery, about June Steingart, he replied “It’s kind of embarrassing. I haven’t thought about it for so long that I can’t really tell you.”

Even Rudy Besikof, the President of Laney College, admitted he “did not have the answer” regarding Steingart but referred us to Evelyn Lord, the Head Librarian at Laney.

Lord tracked down a copy of the Spring 1992 issue of “Good News,” an arts and literature magazine published by Laney faculty and students. An Editor’s note from Burt Dragin, the former chair of the Laney Journalism Department, dedicated the issue to Steingart, who he described as “the soul of the Laney Art Department from 1966 until her death in December 1991. June’s talent and concern for her students are legendary.”

The Spring 1992 issue of Good News was dedicated to June Steingart (source: Laney library)
Former Journalism chair Burt Dragin suggested the new Laney art gallery be named after Steingart (source: Laney library)

Dragin closed the Editor’s Note by saying “There seems to be a consensus at Laney to name the new art gallery-in-progress in the Tower building ‘The June Steingart Gallery’. Considering June’s contribution to this campus, it would be hard to find a better tribute.” 

Armed with this information, The Citizen was able to locate Steingart’s obituary in the December 12, 1991 issue of the Oakland Tribune. The obituary, listed under her married name of June Steingart Chamberlain, revealed she was married to physicist Owen Chamberlain, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1959 and a member of the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb in 1945. He was also an instructor at UC Berkeley for many years. 

According to the site, Chamberlain worked under Professor Emilio Segre at The Manhattan Project, investigating “nuclear cross sections for intermediate-energy neutrons.”  Bringing things full circle, Good News featured a sketch of Segre drawn by Steingart in its Spring 1992 issue. 

Steingart was a New York native, according to her obituary, and moved to California with her husband in 1964. She began teaching art at Laney in 1966 and was recognized as Laney College Teacher of the Year in 1989. 

The obituary noted that Steingart passed away on December 10, 1991 at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland at age 71. The reported cause of her death was cancer. 

Carol Joy, a fellow Laney art instructor, spoke at Steingart’s memorial service, which was held at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club on January 20, 1991. She recognized Stenigart’s “conviction of the importance of public art as a means of communication” and applauded her efforts to “help individual students of different ethnic backgrounds to paint the wall panels on the ground floor of the Tower building.”

Her son from a previous marriage, David Arathorn, was listed as a survivor in the obituary.

June Steingart in an undated photograph provided by her son (source: David Arathorn)

The Citizen was able to make contact with Arathorn, who is currently an assistant research professor at Montana State University in the Electrical & Computer Engineering department. 

He provided us with a photo of his mother, noting “she was younger in this than when teaching at Laney, but I’m sure she’d prefer it.”  

When asked about any recollections, Arathorn said “she was a good mother, exceptionally smart as well as talented. A mother is probably the hardest person to put into words.”

Arathorn also noted that Patricia Polacco, successful children’s writer and illustrator, was a student of Steingart at Laney in the 1980s. 

The missing piece of the puzzle remains Steingart’s artwork.  According to her obituary, “she exhibited her work regularly as a member of the San Francisco Women Artists and the East Bay Watercolor Society” (now called the California Watercolor Association). Arathorn was able to provide The Citizen with two sketches his mother drew, one of a trumpeter and the other of a cathedral. He also said Steingart’s sketch of Segre was “a study for a painted portrait commissioned by Rosa Segre, Emilio’s wife.”

If more of her work is discovered, perhaps the June Steingart gallery may someday feature an exhibit of the art of its namesake.  



Cathedral sketch by June Steingart (source: David Arathorn)
Trumpeter sketch by June Steingart (source: David Arathorn)
This sketch of Nobel physicist Emilio Segre by June Steingart appeared in the Spring 1992 issue of Good News (Source: Laney library)




About the Contributor
David Rowe
David Rowe, Associate Editor
After a 40 year career in advertising, David is considering journalism as his “second act” and preparing himself for that new profession by taking classes at Laney. During his days in advertising, Rowe headed up the media departments for a number of leading ad agencies in San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In this capacity, he was responsible for the planning and placement of tens of millions of dollars of paid media. A high point of his career was placing Intel’s first Super Bowl TV ad in 1997. Rowe has a lifelong interest in journalism dating back to high school in San Jose where he started an underground newspaper called, appropriately enough, The Del Mar Free Press. The school administration threatened to suspend him, so Rowe, with the help of his attorney father, sued the school district in Federal Court and won and injunction. Ultimately, the case was decided in his favor and California state law regarding the rights of high school students was re-written as a result. Rowe is a political junkie who enjoys watching all the Sunday morning news programs and is actively involved in the Joe Biden presidential campaign this year.
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  • C

    callieFeb 9, 2023 at 6:30 pm

    I’m looking for any information on Carol Joy, one of the speakers there. I have a friend of a friend who wants to reconnect with her art teacher.

  • S

    ShelleyDec 25, 2022 at 12:56 am

    Hello David, Thankyou so much for this article of June. This could be the beginning of a documentary or… not just of June but laney, California artists…or Northern California oakland artists etc.
    sculpture needs more than it’s getting in northern cal. I am a sculptor and sincerely wish laney was more on the map for this bi bold and beautiful art form.

  • R

    RudyApr 26, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    Mr. Rowe:

    Thank you for the incredible awareness you have brought to the College about the late Professor Steingart. After we spoke, I contacted some longtime employees and did my own scouring of the web to learn more about her but found very little. My compliments to you for your research abilities and investigative acumen, but most of all, thank you for sharing a bit about our College’s great past with the readership of The Citizen and the campus community as a whole.

    Rudy Besikof
    (Proud) Laney College President