Many are mourning the death of UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Dee Denton after she fell from the top of a San Francisco apartment complex this weekend.
In what appears to be a suicide, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Dee Denton fell from the roof of a 43-story luxury apartment in San Francisco called The Paramount — which was the residence of her 8-year partner, Gretchen Kalonji — at approximately 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 24. A nearby hotel guest reported the incident after discovering Denton’s body on top of the Paramount parking garage.
Many UC chancellors, administrators and students have offered their condolences to Denton’s family and friends. Chancellor Henry Yang said he met Denton in the early 1990s and had worked with her regularly at UC Office of the President and Regents’ meetings and events.
“Denice impressed me with her intelligence, her dedication, her perseverance, and her strong work ethic,” Yang said. “[She] provided dynamic leadership and vision for the future of UC Santa Cruz, and she worked very hard on behalf of the campus.”
Yang said the UCSB campus flag was lowered to half-staff on Monday in Denton’s honor.
“Chancellor Denton will be dearly missed by our UC family,” Yang said. “Our hearts go out to her partner, Gretchen Kalonji, and to all of her family members and friends who have suffered such a terrible loss.”
In 1996, Denton became the first woman to be appointed dean of engineering at the University of Washington, and she was the first openly gay UC system campus leader and one of the youngest UC chancellors.
During her term as UCSC chancellor, which began in February 2005, she promoted the role of women and minorities in studying science, math and engineering.
“UC Santa Cruz does things differently but for a purpose,” Denton said during her first month as chancellor.
Despite her successes, Denton was criticized during her time as chancellor for what many consider inappropriate dealings: She received $600,000 from the UC for improvements to her home, which included a $30,000 dog run, and she helped Kalonii obtain a high-paying UC position.
UCSC third-year psychology major Michael Kirihara said many students were angered by Denton’s additional, and perhaps unfair, monetary compensation as well as her work at the school. However, he said her death is a tragedy, and he sympathizes with her friends and relatives.
“People were really upset with how she ran the job and the school,” Kirihara said. “I’m saddened to hear she committed suicide, but I just don’t feel she was doing a very good job as chancellor. It didn’t sound like she had helped the school out at all.”
Since her death, a memorial fund has been set up to honor Denton’s achievements in science and her commitment to advocating diversity and aiding the community.
A memorial service for Denton will be held Thursday June 29 at 10 a.m. at UCSC’s Recital Hall.