Memorial services were pending Tuesday for Donald R. Gerth, a former Cal State Dominguez Hills president who played an instrumental role in the growth of the state university system.
Gerth died Monday at age 93, according to the university. He worked in the state university system from 1958 until his retirement in 2003.
“Few individuals are as inextricably tied to the CSU — and have so wonderfully lived out the university’s highest ideals — as Donald R. Gerth,” CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said in a statement. “He deeply loved the CSU. … Don’s was a life well-lived, and his positive impact on Cal State faculty, staff, and alumni has and will continue to span generations.”
Current CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham said Gerth’s influence on CSUDH cannot be overstated.
“He was instrumental in helping the institution attain university status, and his impact at CSUDH continues to be felt and appreciated by everyone who steps onto the campus,” Parham said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and loved ones at this difficult time.”
A Chicago native, Gerth attended the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in 1947 and a master’s in political science in 1951. While earning his master’s degree, he spent a year serving as a field representative in Southeast Asia for the World University Service.
In 1958, Gerth began his work at the California State Colleges system with an appointment as associate dean of students for admissions and records and government instructor at San Francisco State College.
He later became deputy dean for institutional relations and student affairs for the CSC system, and in 1964 he joined Chico State College as a faculty member and administrator, ultimately rising to the roles of dean of students and vice president of academic affairs.
In 1976, he became the second president of California State College, Dominguez Hills, leading the institutions to university status one year into his tenure. He spent eight years at CSUDH, with officials saying he oversaw everything from curriculum expansion to the completion of the campus’ physical core.
From 1984 to 2003, he served as president of Cal State University Sacramento, and his vocal advocacy on behalf of the CSU system earned him the moniker “Dean of CSU Presidents.”
He wrote voluminous articles and papers on public policy affecting higher education, and co-authored and edited “An Invisible Giant,” a 1971 book about the formative years of the CSU system. In 2010, he published “The People’s University: A History of the California State University.”
He also helped establish and grow the CSUDH Archives, along with the CSU System-wide Archives, a collection of records housed at CSUDH.
Gerth is survived by his wife of 66 years, Beverly; daughters Annette Schofield and Deborah Ann Hougham; Hougham’s husband, Harold; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.