University of California, Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Dee Denton, 46, died in the early summer in what authorities are reporting was an apparent suicide. Denton fell from a 43-story luxury apartment building in San Francisco in late June. Her mother was quoted in several press reports as saying that Denton had been depressed recently.
Denton held the chancellor's post for only 16 months. Colleagues noted she was a champion of "excellence through diversity," and had worked to help young women and minorities pursue careers in science and engineering. After being appointed to the chancellorship she held a two-symposium on diversity and excellence instead of holding a formal inauguration.
Denton was the youngest person to become a UC chancellor when she took the job in early 2005 and she was the first open lesbian in the position. Just this year, Denton received the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award, which recognized her advocacy for women in science.
Many expressed shock that Denton, known for being a strong leader and having a forceful personality, was suicidal.
Others note, though, that she was, at times, sharply criticized during her time in office for making $600,000 in renovations to her campus home and for helping her partner, Gretchen Kalonji, land a $192,000-per-year position as UC's director of international strategy development. She was caught in the general UC system scandal that broke early this year that questioned perks and payments to a slew of executives. While she didn't seem particularly down about the criticism, she did privately question friends as to whether the intense scrutiny was based on the fact that she was a woman and an out lesbian.
Her requests for home improvements, though, may have been based on fears for her safety, press reports imply. After her campus home was vandalized she asked for additional security. She also reported spotting an intruder on her property taking photographs.
A crowd of more than 1,000 gathered at UC Santa Cruz Recital Hall in late June for a memorial service. UCSC is maintaining a website and online memorial at www.ucsc.edu/administration/denice_denton/ -J.M.A.