Former university leader was first in his family to finish high school.
Chancellor Emeritus Larry N. Vanderhoef died on October 15, 2015, at the age of 74.
His family attributed his death to complications from successive ischemic strokes, starting in November 2012. Since then, as his health permitted, he attended university events, served on multiple university and regional boards, came to his office and finished his memoir, "Indelibly Davis," which came out last spring.
A plant biologist, Vanderhoef served as provost and executive vice chancellor from 1984 to 1994 before becoming UC Davis’ sixth chancellor. He held the post for 15 years, becoming one of the nation's longest serving university leaders, widely credited as a mentor to UC Davis administrators who would go on to other universities to serve as presidents and provosts.
“I was so sorry to hear of Larry’s passing,” said College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) Dean Helene Dillard. “Although my time in the college didn’t overlap with Chancellor Vanderhoef’s leadership, I know from his legacy that his work helped build the strength and excellence of our college. We were so grateful to have him join us two weeks ago at the CA&ES College Celebration, and we mourn his passing.”
Neal Van Alfen, who served as CA&ES dean from 1999 to 2012, worked with Vanderhoef for many years. “The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences flourished under the leadership of Chancellor Vanderhoef,” said Van Alfen. “He maintained high expectations, but he let the deans, chairs, and faculty lead. Although we faced many budget challenges during the last 10 years of his time as chancellor, our college grew stronger because of his style of leadership.”
While Vanderhoef led UC Davis with the characteristic modesty of his Midwest roots, there was nothing modest about the university's achievements during his time in Mrak Hall. The university added students and faculty and facilities, brought in more research funding, rose in the rankings, and gained admission to the prestigious Association of American Universities.
In 2006, Vanderhoef launched the university's first comprehensive campaign, which would ultimately surpass its $1 billion goal.
First-generation high school and college graduate
Vanderhoef was born in Minnesota and reared in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the first in his family to finish high school and one of the few in his factory town to go to college — commuting from home and usually holding down a full-time job.
Drawing on his own experience, he would become an advocate for access to higher education. He expanded partnerships with community colleges; established the "Reservation for College" program for disadvantaged children, encouraging them to stay on track with their education; and partnered with leaders of regional communities of color to raise awareness of UC Davis.
Chancellor Emeritus Vanderhoef held bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a doctorate in plant biochemistry from Purdue University.
He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Society of Plant Biologists.
After retiring as chancellor, Vanderhoef maintained joint professor emeritus appointments in the Department of Plant Sciences (CA&ES) and the Department of Plant Biology (CBS) at UC Davis.
The Vanderhoef family asks people wishing to make memorial contributions to please consider either the Larry N. Vanderhoef Scholarship for Study Abroad or the Larry N. Vanderhoef Staff Scholarship. Contributions may be made online or by mail to UC Davis Advancement Services, 1460 Drew Ave., Suite 100, Davis, CA 95618 (checks should be made payable to the UC Davis Foundation, with the scholarship's name designated on the memo line).
A university memorial service will be announced when plans are confirmed.
* Dave Jones, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6556, firstname.lastname@example.org