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University of California-Santa Cruz chancellor dies in apparent suicide

The Monterey Herald reports that Denice Dee Denton, out lesbian and the first woman in the nation to lead an engineering college at a major university, leapt to her death from the 44th floor of the apartment she shared with her partner.

Denton, 46, landed on the roof of the building’s parking structure, said San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens. He was unsure if she had left behind a note. The medical examiner’s office is investigating the death as a suicide.

Sources said Denton had retreated from the campus in the weeks before her death, canceling appointments and clearing her calendar. She recently sought a medical leave.

…UC officials struggled Saturday to understand what was behind Denton’s death. Spokesman Michael Reese said there were more questions than answers and that officials were trying to put together the pieces.

”Her tragic passing is a tremendous loss for the entire University of California family,” UC President Robert C. Dynes said in a written statement. ”She was a person of enthusiasm, of big ideas, of tremendous energy, and of great promise.”

The youngest of the Golden State’s ten chancellors in the university system, Denton may best be known for the confrontation with Harvard President Larry Summers when he suggested that “women didn’t have the same aptitude for science and math as men.”

Her tenure at UCSC was rife with controversy over the hiring of her partner, Gretchen Kalonji, into the Office of the President. Why that particular matter was a big deal escapes me, as spousal/partner hires are not an uncommon occurrence in academia. Perhaps there more to that story than what meets the eye;. matters weren’t helped when Denton folded a $3K dog run into a $600K renovation to the chancellor’s home on the school’s campus, she was also the target of student protests.

Hat tip, Fritz.

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Pam Spaulding

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