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.