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Denice C. Denton

Denice D. Denton ’82, chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz and an MIT alumna, passed away on June 24th in San Francisco. She was 46.

Denton received four degrees from MIT: a bachelor of science, masters, and doctorate in electrical engineering, as well as an engineering degree in electrical engineering.

Before becoming chancellor of UCSC, Denton was the dean of the University of Washington-Seattle College of Engineering. She was also a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught at the University of Massachusetts and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, according to a UCSC press release.

According to the press release, a memorial service was held for Denton on Thursday, June 29 at the UC Santa Cruz Music Recital Hall. At the memorial service, UC President Robert C. Dynes described Denton as “a pioneer in many ways, a person who turned beliefs into actions, and into change, on many fronts.”

President Hockfield remembered Denton on a UCSC memorial Web page, writing: “We at MIT are shocked and saddened at the tragic death of our distinguished graduate Denice Denton. Having accomplished so much and blazed so many trails at a young age, Chancellor Denton served as a role model for many on our campus and around the nation as she highlighted the importance of building communities of mutual respect on campuses everywhere. All of us are the poorer for the loss of this leader in engineering and the academy.”

Denton worked to increase the number of women in science and had recently won the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award for her work, according to the UCSC press release. According to the same press release, she was present at the conference where Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers ’75 made comments about the difference between women and men. Denton called the response a “teachable moment.”

Professor Nancy H. Hopkins, who was at the same conference, wrote on the memorial Web page that “Denice Denton was a heroine who used her vast talent to serve others and improve the world. The higher she rose, the more she worked to raise others. It should be easy to open fields of science and engineering to the diverse population that we are in this country, but it isn’t. Instead it is a struggle that requires commitment, vision, and courage. Denice was a national leader in this regard.”

According to the UCSC press release, Denton is survived by her partner Gretchen Kalonji; her mother, Carolyn Mabee; brother Deran Denton; sisters Derri Denton and Michelle Moore; as well as lifelong friend Dianna Beasley.