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Denice Denton

Denice Denton was an embattled University of California-Santa Cruz chancellor whose career was notable for several trailblazing firsts.

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Denice Dee Denton

Date and place of birth: August 27, 1959, El Campo, Texas, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: June 24, 2006, at approximately 8 a.m., Paramount Apartments, Mission and Third Streets, San Francisco, California, U.S.A. (Suicide - Jumped to her death)

Father: Robert Glenn Denton
Mother: Carolyn Irene Denton


Denice Dee Denton's career highlights include teaching electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1987-96), Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle (1996-2005), and Chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz (February 14th, 2005 - June 24th, 2006).

Denice Denton was born in the rural farming community of El Campo, in Wharton County, Texas, and spent much of her childhood in Houston. Her bachelors and masters degrees in electrical engineering were both obtained at MIT in the early 1980s. She also received her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987. That same year, she took a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she had the distinction of being the only woman on the faculty of the Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering. Dr. Denice Denton spent nine years at Wisconsin, and co-directed the National Institute for Science Education, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative which works to improve mathematics and science education for all students. Professor Denton also chaired the executive committee of the Faculty Division of Physical Sciences at Wisconsin. Additionally, Dr. Denton held teaching positions at the University of Massachusetts and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

In 1996, she was appointed Dean of the University of Washington's College of Engineering. Thus she became the first woman to lead an engineering college at a major U.S. research university. She fought hard to establish and promote programs that seek to make engineering education more accessible to women and underrepresented minorities. In May 2004, Denton was among those honored by the White House with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, in recognition of her efforts as a national leader to encourage diversity in science and engineering.

In late 2004, the UC Board of Regents announced Dr. Denton would become the ninth chancellor of UCSC. Shortly before taking her post on the 15,000-student UC Santa Cruz campus, Denton made national headlines when she denounced Harvard University President Lawrence Summers for remarks he made suggesting that women might be less science-prone for genetic reasons. A chorus of disapproval met his controversial statement and he resigned just months later.

February 14th, 2005, Denton became Chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz, making her the first openly gay chancellor in the University of California system. She was also one of the youngest UC chancellors. As a lesbian in the male-dominated field of engineering, Chancellor Denice Denton continued to be a prominent advocate for women in technical fields. Her tenure quickly turned turbulent, when the media began reporting on lavish spending at a time when the university was raising tuition and cutting budgets. The university had provided Denton a 2,680-square-foot home, yet she demanded they make $600,000 worth of renovations to the home, at their expense. The upgrade included dozens of extravagant improvements such as new speakers, wiring, amplifier and CD player for a built-in sound system, and a $30,000 dog run. Criticism only increased when it was learned she had received a series of perks in violation of UC policy, including a $21,000 moving allowance and a $16,000 signing bonus. Additional protests resulted when the university created a $192,000-a-year university position for Denton's partner of nine years, Gretchen Kalonji, and provided her a housing assistance allowance of up to $50,000.

Under increasing pressures professionally, and facing escalating medical problems, Dr. Denice Denton jumped to her death June 24th, 2006, at approximately 8 a.m., from the Paramount Apartments, at Mission and Third Streets, in San Francisco, California. She shared a luxury apartment with her partner, Gretchen Kalonji, at the Paramount apartments, which, at over 400', was San Francisco's tallest luxury rental apartment building. Her mother Carolyn, reports her daughter was "very depressed" about her professional and personal life. The medical examiner ruled her death a suicide.

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