In Memory of




Obituary for Jean-Bernard "Bernie" Bucky

Obituary for Jean-Bernard Bucky, 1937-2024
Jean-Bernard (Bernie) Bucky, William Dwight Whitney Professor of Theatre, Emeritus at Williams College in Williamstown, MA, died on February 13 as a result of complications from an automobile accident and subsequent fall. He was 86.
Bernie was born in Paris in 1937, to Gerhard and Eva (Huldschiner) Bucky. In 1939 his family, fleeing the oncoming Nazis, emigrated to the U.S. and settled in New York, where he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1953.
As a child Bernie attended P.S. 187 before going on to Stuyvesant High School. He remained a proud alumnus of both throughout his life (and would often sing both school songs for his children at bedtime). Bernie earned a B.S. in Mathematics from Queens College of the City of New York, followed by an M.S. in the same discipline from New York University. He then joined the Air Force, serving from 1961 to 1970 as a senior mathematician in the Research and Technology Division, first on active duty and then as a reservist, attaining the rank of captain. While stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force Base he became involved with the theater program at nearby Antioch College, which led to a major career change when he decided to pursue an MFA in Stage Directing from Carnegie Mellon University.
In 1966 Bernie joined the Department of Dramatic Arts at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught until 1974 while also directing plays at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. His repertoire there covered virtually the entire history of the stage, from Euripides to Shakespeare to Shaw; Noel Coward to Brendan Behan to Brecht and Weill; Odets and O’Neill to Pinter and Bellow. This tremendous range became a hallmark of Bernie’s style and his teaching legacy.

Bernie came to Williams in 1974 as associate professor of drama and director of the Adams Memorial Theatre. From his arrival until 1985 he chaired the theater department; earned promotion to full professor and then the Whitney Professorship; led a revision of the theater curriculum; and guided the establishment of a new major in theater.
Bernie and then-Provost Cappy Hill ’76 co-chaired the building committee for the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance. When the Center opened in 2005 he directed the first work in the new space, a collection of Samuel Beckett’s one-act plays.
President Emeritus Frank Oakley recalls, “Having rejuvenated the theater program and being elected by his colleagues to the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, Bernie distinguished himself as leader first of the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford and then of the Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Across the years he was a fine colleague and, to many of us, a loyal and warmhearted friend.”
His productions at Williams, at least one play every semester for several decades, spanned the history of the stage. Over these years he also directed works for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the San Francisco Opera, the Michigan Opera Theatre, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and StageWest in Springfield, MA. He mentored many Williams students as they pursued careers in theater, a commitment he sustained to the end of his life.
Bernie is survived by his wife Karen (Williamstown, MA) and by his six children, Gillian Kahtan (Brooklyn, NY), Jason Bucky (San Francisco, CA), Adam Bucky (Shanghai, China), Aaron Bucky (Osaka, Japan), Susannah Bucky (Brooklyn, NY), and Miranda Bucky (Oakland, CA); as well as five grandchildren: Benjamin and Rachel and Avi Kahtan, and Elio and Desmond Bucky.
For anyone wishing to make donations in his name, Bernie’s chosen charities were Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, the Equal Justice Initiative, EarthJustice and local food banks.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, March 22nd at 2:30 p.m. in the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance at Williams College. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit