How can Don Rothman be gone? That's what I've been asking myself since hearing the news yesterday that he passed away in his sleep. I've known Don since his arrival at UCSC in 1973. I'd been here only a year, and we were both affiliated with Oakes College, so he's been a friend of mine almost from the beginning. Don is—was—a true mensch. He cared deeply about students, his faculty colleagues, his work, and his family and friends. He always connected with people and had an extraordinary ability to look at things through their eyes. He was a gifted writing teacher who reached out to students throughout his career. He was particularly dedicated to underrepresented and first-generation college students. He was determined to give them the tools he knew they'd need to succeed.
It was always fun to be in the same room with Don. Even during a boring meeting, he was good about listening, and he genuinely cared about others' perspectives. If things got heated, he was able to step back, provide context, and move things forward. And students loved him. I've seen his teaching evaluations over the years, and they really loved him! I was sad at his retirement, but Don didn't disappear. He started new projects in town, he kept working with teachers, and he stayed involved with the university, working with AB540 students and many others. Just last year, he and Herman Blake, the founding provost of Oakes who hired Don, took part in a conversation over Reunion Weekend that was part of Oakes's 40th anniversary celebration. Herman took the conversation in a direction I don't think anyone expected, focusing on the importance of "eloquent listening," and Don was right there with him. It was a great conversation that embodied the legacy of both these great men.
Don was a happy person who lived exactly the life he wanted to live. I am still reeling from the news that he is gone.
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