In photos and a video, Chancellor Emeritus Larry N. Vanderhoef beamed once again at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts — a building that stands as one of his great legacies from 25 years of campus leadership.
The campus community had gathered in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall on Nov. 4, joining his family and others for a celebration of Vanderhoef’s life. He died Oct. 15 of complications from a series of ischemic strokes. He was 74.
The celebration began with a slideshow and concluded with Vanderhoef in a video clip, giving his last Fall Convocation address before stepping down as chancellor.
Professor Emeritus of Music D. Kern Holoman conducted the symphony orchestra, including alumni and others who wanted to be part of this special performance; and Vanderhoef’s daughter, Susanne, sang an aria, Bach’sBist du bei Mir.
Nine people reflected on Vanderhoef’s life, and here is a snippet from each person’s talk.
“One memory that stands out among the rest is how welcoming and gracious both he and Rosalie were to Manfred and me when we first arrived in Davis. That means a great deal. I know that many others would nod in agreement were I to add that we in the LGBTQ community are especially grateful for his support and friendship, all the more welcome during years that had been very, very dark.”
“For 25 years Larry Vanderhoef led UC Davis with a distinctive style that inspired our campus community. During that time UC Davis experienced unprecedented growth in its student body, faculty, in its physical stature and its reputation. … Doing what matters defines his legacy and stands as a source of inspiration for all of us. The mark he has left here is indelible, and I’m honored and humbled to have followed his tenure as a chancellor here at UC Davis.”
“Larry once told me that the saddest place on earth is a university campus over winter, summer or spring break. All these buildings, he said, are of no value without the students and the faculty, without teaching and learning.” (Harris became friends with Vanderhoef when he was chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District.)
In talking about a heated argument over a staffing decision — an argument that lasted an hour until he and Vanderhoef apologized to each other, Grey said: “And that might have been the end of it, except the next morning when I came to my office there was a floral delivery waiting for me on my conference table. It was a beautiful white lily, a peace lily, and it had a note from Larry, that said — and I still have the note — ‘Dear Bob: The wonderful thing about honest friendships is that they survive the tough times.’ That altercation and the resolution of it and Larry’s graciousness served to forge a bond of trust between us and a friendship that lasted to the end.”
“He was a ‘we’ leader. It was always about ‘we,’ not ‘I.’ He respected the fact that it took every single person here to advance UC Davis. And that respect also generated loyalty to him and the institution. He was a great leader. … He was the best listener with whom I ever worked. At first I thought he just didn’t like to talk. But he was busy listening.”
Munir told about the time he asked Vanderhoef and then-Dean of Engineering Mo Ghausi to stand on either side of him for a photo, and then announced that he had wanted for some time to have a picture taken of Larry, Curly and Mo. “After that, I actually worried that Larry may not like to be associated with the Three Stooges, but when subsequently I had a reason to meet with him in his office, I saw that picture prominently displayed on the wall behind his desk. That picture, by the way, has been on the wall of my office ever since. It will remain so as a reminder of a wonderful friend.”
Merewitz, who was a student leader during Vanderhoef’s tenure, speaking to Rosalie Vanderhoef and children, Susanne and Jon: “On behalf of all of the students and alumni who benefited from Chancellor Vanderhoef’s leadership of the campus, my sincere condolences on your loss. Thank you for sharing him with us. We are all saddened at the passing of this special man.”
“What I have come to realize as people recall their experiences with Larry, is that he was always giving gifts. I don’t mean the kind of gifts that are all wrapped up in a package with a bow, although I’m sure he gave those kinds of gifts, too. I mean the gestures and the kindnesses and the confidences that he shared with people — gestures that sent them away feeling honored and empowered and recognized and included.”
In talking about her husband’s speech a year ago to emeriti and retirees, on the topic of “The Three T’s,” Vanderhoef's widow said: “’I know that you know these three T’s,’ he told the retirees that day, ‘because you live them and you give of them generously, you always have, and UC Davis is the great beneficiary. So what are those three T’s? Time, talent and treasure.’ He may have been talking to the retirees that day, but if he were here today, he would be saying the same thing to all of you. And he would be adding a fourth T, as he did that day. Thanks. He would be saying, ‘Thank you so much for all you do for UC Davis, and, on its behalf, the campus is forever changed, for the better, because of you.’”
She then presented the video clip of the chancellor’s convocation address in 2008, the university’s centennial year. Said Chancellor Vanderhoef: “Just as UC Davis was there 100 years ago, anticipating and responding to society’s needs, I know that we’ll be there doing the same thing in our second century. This really is not an option for us. It’s in our genes. It’s our culture. It’s what we do, and we do it well.”
And, just as the audience in the video gave him a standing ovation, so did the audience watching the video — until the video showed the chancellor extend his hands in front of him, palms down, asking people to take their seats.