Ambassador Don Gevirtz, guest lecturer and UCSB donor, died Sunday in Montecito from a heart attack at the age of 73.
Gevirtz served as the ambassador to Fiji from 1996-1997, appointed by President Bill Clinton. He was also a visiting lecturer at UCSB and co-taught Global Studies 124 last quarter.
“He really tried to do things for students. He had things at his house. Don would just go out of his way to try to give students a break,” Director of Global and International Studies Mark Juergensmeyer said.
Last October, Gevirtz and his wife Marilyn, a trustee of the UCSB Foundation, donated $10 million to the Graduate School of Education, the largest contribution to the graduate school. The school was renamed the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. In 1996, the Gevirtzes donated $1 million to the renamed Gevirtz Research Center.
With the contribution, the school was able to increase student fellowships, attract more students and improve education research in the kindergarten through high school area. Gevirtz wanted to ensure one of the best education schools at UCSB and hoped the school would make major contributions to public policy as well as education, Dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School Jules Zimmer said.
Zimmer, a personal friend of Gevirtz, said Gevirtz challenged his friends emotionally, spirituality and intellectuality. Gevirtz also pushed people in the positive direction, Zimmer said.
“To be with Don was always to be challenged as who you are as a person,” he said. “Don’s spirit, energy and passion for education transcend any words. Don had a dream to leave a legacy of education and we at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education are blessed to be part of that dream. The school is committed to fulfilling Don’s vision to improve public education on behalf of all children. His leadership and friendship inspired all of us to be more than we thought we could be.”
A private ceremony will be held Wednesday morning, but a campus memorial is being planned. The Gevirtz School is also planning a lecture series in Gevirtz’s honor.
Chancellor Henry Yang flew back from Washington, D.C. to help plan the memorial ceremonies.
“Don Gevirtz was not only a major supporter of UCSB, he was an education visionary who helped inspire students, scholars and policymakers,” he said. “His sudden death is a major loss for our institution, our community, our state and our nation.
Staff Writer Eric Simons also contributed to this story.