Denice Denton

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Denice Denton
Denice Denton.jpg
Ninth Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz
In office
Personal details
Born(1959-08-27)August 27, 1959
El Campo, Texas, USA
DiedJune 24, 2006(2006-06-24) (aged 46)
San Francisco, California, USA
Spouse(s)Gretchen Kalonji
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
ProfessionElectrical engineer, professor, administrator
InstitutionsUniversity of Massachusetts Lowell
University of Wisconsin–Madison
ETH Zürich
University of Washington

Denice Dee Denton (August 27, 1959 – June 24, 2006) was an American professor of electrical engineering and academic administrator. She was the ninth chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Early years[edit]

Denton was born in El Campo, Texas in Wharton County. She was the oldest child of Bob Glenn Denton and Carolyn Irene Drab.[1] Denton earned her bachelor's and master's degrees (1982), EE (1983) and PhD (1987) in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Denton spent two summers and an academic year in the late 1970s and early 1980s at Fairchild Semiconductor, where her projects included 64K static RAM design.[2] After graduation, she accepted a professorship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering, which was interested in her work in plasma deposition and polymerization. She was the first woman to win tenure in engineering, and she was quickly promoted to full professor.[3]


Denton held academic appointments at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. In 1996, Denton was hired as the Dean of the College of Engineering and professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington. She was the first woman in the United States to lead an engineering college of a major research university.[4]

Denton received attention for her response to Harvard President Larry Summers' suggestion, in January 2005, that one of the reasons that women had achieved less in science could be innate differences between the sexes. "Of course he has the right to say anything and of course there are biological differences," Denton said. "What some of us were concerned about is that his hypotheses were not grounded in the best and latest scholarly work, and could be refuted by anyone in the field."[3][5]

University of California[edit]

Denton was the first openly gay, and at 45, the youngest person to be appointed to be chancellor in the University of California system by UC President Robert Dynes.[3] She succeeded Martin Chemers, who served as acting chancellor following the resignation of M. R. C. Greenwood who became the University of California Provost.[6][7]

Denton's recruitment package would eventually include a $275,000 salary, $68,750 as a moving allowance, improvements to the chancellor's on-campus residence which included a $30,000 dog pen initially budgeted at $7,000. Included in the deal was a tenured professorial appointment with a $192,000 salary, and a housing assistance allowance of up to $50,000 for her partner, Gretchen Kalonji.[8]

Although much of the 7,000 square feet (650 m2) residence was used for campus functions, the approximately $600,000 renovation cost, and overall cost of Denton's recruitment brought criticism.[9][10] This contrasts sharply against increasing student fees, up 79 percent in four years, and low pay raises for clerical and service staff.[citation needed]

After an April 2005 campus protest over these issues resulted in the arrest of 19 students, 200 faculty signed a petition condemning her "unwarranted" use of force. She also was allegedly a victim of personal harassment, in the form of verbal insults. A barricade was tossed through her guest-bedroom window on June 10, 2005.[11] Protesters advocating higher wages for custodians blocked Denton in her car outside her office for about five minutes on June 6, 2006 while performing a skit about racism.[12][13]

On April 5, 2005 anti-war protesters forced military recruiters at a campus career fair to leave campus. Denton received dozens of threatening phone calls and e-mails. When it was discovered that protest was listed as a "credible threat" on the TALON database managed by the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Agency, Denton helped persuade California Senators Boxer and Feinstein to request an investigation. Ultimately, campus protests were removed from the database.[14]

After Denton's death, astronomy and astrophysics professor George Blumenthal was named interim on July 14, 2006, and officially became the university's tenth Chancellor on September 19, 2007.

Boards and memberships[edit]

Denton was a member of the UC President's Committee to select recipients of the Medal of Science, and the committee to select recipients of the Alan T. Waterman Award sponsored by the NSF. She was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Women in Science, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She was a member of the NSF Engineering Directorate Advisory Committee and a member of the Visiting Committee for the California Institute of Technology Division of Engineering and Applied Science. Denton served as chair of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) Board on Engineering Education. Among many other appointments, she was a member of the NRC Committee on Advanced Materials and Fabrication Methods for Microelectromechanical Systems and of MIT's Advisory Board for Initiatives to Diversify the Professoriate. Chancellor Denton was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Board of Directors of Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

Personal life[edit]

Denton, who was openly lesbian, resided part-time in downtown San Francisco with her partner of more than ten years, Gretchen Kalonji, a professor of materials science. On June 24, 2006, one day following Denton's discharge from the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute where she had been treated for depression, she leapt 33 stories to her death from The Paramount, a high-rise in which she shared an apartment with Kalonji.[15]

In August 2007 Denton's partner Gretchen Kalonji filed a lawsuit against Denton's estate seeking $2.25 million. Kalonji claims Denton's failure to revise her will or name Kalonji as a beneficiary to her UC life insurance policy was inadvertent and a violation of their oral agreement.[16]

Honors and awards[edit]

Among other numerous awards she won the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award (2006), a national recognition of exceptional work that advances opportunities in the sciences for women and girls; the IEEE/HP Harriet B. Rigas Award (1995); the ASEE George Westinghouse Award (1995);[17] the W. M. Keck Foundation Engineering Teaching Excellence Award (1994); the Benjamin Smith Reynolds Teaching Award (University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1994); the Eta Kappa Nu C. Holmes MacDonald Distinguished Young Electrical Engineer National Teaching Award (1993); the American Society of Engineering Education AT&T Foundation Teaching Award (1991); the Kiekhofer Distinguished Teaching Award (University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1990); and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Young Investigator Award (1987). Portland State University Maseeh College of Engineering has endowed its Best Woman Engineer award after Denton.


  1. ^ Texas Birth Index 1903-1997 showing "Denice Dee Denton, born August 27, 1959. Wharton County. Father Bob Glenn Denton, Mother Carolyn Irene Drab."
  2. ^ Jondi Gumz (2005-03-27). "New UCSC chancellor Confronts Stereotypes". The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
  3. ^ a b c Bartindale, Beck (2005-02-14). "New UCSC Chancellor No Stranger to Challenges". The San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2008-03-28y. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ Gumz, Jondi (2004-12-15). "Regents pick new UCSC chancellor". The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on July 2, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  5. ^ Denton, Denice (2005-02-07). "President Summers' remarks offer global 'teachable moment'". Currents. University of California, Santa Cruz. 9 (26). Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  6. ^ Gumz, Jondi (2005-11-05). "UC shocker: Greenwood resigns as system provost as improper-hiring probe under way". The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  7. ^ Schevitz, Tanya; Wallack, Todd (2005-12-22). "Conflict of interest found for UC provost / Despite violations, she got paid leave and offer of new job". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  8. ^ "University of California announces appointment of Gretchen Kalonji as systemwide director of international strategy development" (Press release). University of California Office of the President. January 26, 2005. Archived from the original on January 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  9. ^ Schevitz, Tanya (2005-01-20). "UC hires partner of chancellor, Creates 192,000 post for Santa Cruz chief's lesbian lover". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  10. ^ Schevitz, Tanya; Wallack, Todd (2006-03-30). "Chancellor's residence wish list made public, UC paid 600,000 to make upgrades to University House". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  11. ^ Kapp, Diana (March 2007). "The scandal, the scapegoats, and the suicide". San Francisco Magazine. San Francisco. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
  12. ^ "UCSC protesters confront chancellor". The Santa Cruz Sentinel. 2006-06-07. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  13. ^ Glatter, Jonathan D. (2006-06-30). "Stunned Campus Mourns Its Chief, an Apparent Suicide". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  14. ^ "UC Santa Cruz protest no longer on Pentagon's 'credible threat' list" (Press release). UC Santa Cruz. February 10, 2006. Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-05.
  15. ^ Sideman, Roger (2006-11-04). "Autopsy report details Denton's last days". The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  16. ^ Squires, Jennifer (2007-08-19). "Denton's partner sues late UC Santa Cruz chancellor's estate for 2.25M". The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  17. ^ "Past National Award Winners (page 1), section George Westinghouse Award". American Society for Engineering Education. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2010.

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