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In Memoriam: Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey


By Elizabeth Romero Student Intern CHASS College Computing
November 9, 2009

Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, longtime UC faculty member and founding chancellor of UC Merced, lost her battle with breast cancer on October 10th. She was 66.

Dr. Tomlinson-Keasey was born Oct 15th, 1942 in Washington D.C. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Penn State University, her master’s in psychology from Iowa State and her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from UC Berkeley. Additionally, she completed postdoctoral studies at the Institute of Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado.

She joined the UC system in 1977 as an associate professor of psychology here at UC Riverside. In 1980 she became a full professor and held faculty and administrative positions at UCR until 1992. In 1992 she was named vice provost and professor at UC Davis, appointed dean of the College of Letters and Science in 1994, and a year later she was named vice provost for academic planning and personnel at UC Davis. In 1997 Dr. Tomlinson-Keasey moved to the UC Office of the President in 1997 where she served in the position of vice provost for academic initiatives. The following year she was assigned the planning responsibilities of UC Merced and in 1999 was named chancellor of UC Merced.

In honor of the time that Carol Tomlinson-Keasey spent here at UCR, various members of the faculty and staff have provided their memories of Carol Tomlinson-Keasey below:

Roseanna Barron-Lopez, UC Riverside
I saw the best of what an administrator of the University of California should be in Carol Tomlinson‐Keasey. Her best quality was not in her indefatigable stamina to spearhead a project, college or university, but in her ability to value others: her colleagues, students, staff and family. She was part of a minute fraction of administrators that took the time to care about others in all walks of life. She set the tone for the Dean’s office. A tone where the staff worked diligently all week but took the time to enjoy late Friday afternoon breaks with the boss, Carol.

Carol Tomlinson-Keasey never backed off from responsibility and making difficult decisions. She was an inspiration to women from all ethnicities and generations. A true pioneer on many fronts, an administrator who was a humanist first, caring about the people who worked for and with her, a mother whose face brightened with a simple inquiry of how her children were doing, a no‐nonsense administrator who cut through the bull, finding tenable solutions. This world will greatly miss her. She truly was, as Maya Angelo would state, “a phenomenal woman.” She led a remarkable life and left an undeniable mark on those oh so very fortunate to have known her.

Jerry Carlson, UC Riverside

Carol and I were colleagues at the University of California, Riverside and shared many interests. These included issues related to child development, particularly how and to what extent cultural and educational experiences shape that development and why some children are resilient and seemingly immune to negative environmental circumstances. As a faculty member in the psychology department as well as Acting Dean of Humanities and Social Science she and I had many productive discussions about the role of study abroad in the lives of college students. She, as I, were advocates of the study abroad programs that the University of California offered and did as much as we could to support and advance study abroad opportunities at UCR as well as system-wide. Carol had a liberal vision of what university education should be. Her commitment to that vision, her involvement to help students realize and expand their potential academically as well as personally is something I greatly respected then and still do today. I remember her fondly.

Sandi (Stout) Evelyn-Veere, UC Riverside
Many of you who knew Carol Tomlinson-Keasey are intimately informed of the significant work in academia that she accomplished in the UC system, but I recall Carol my boss in the College of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences.  Working with Carol was a once-in-a–life-time experience, now filled with wonderful memories.

Carol had a natural ability as an administrator and served the college with honesty and an unwavering work ethic. I have been fortunate to work with many accomplished people at UCR, but few match Carol.  She set a high standard, both personally and professionally, for her colleagues and co-workers. Our staff worked hard for her because she made us feel valued and like family.

Carol routinely did dictation during Amber’s RAA swim practice/meets, so getting through the tape to the actual material to transcribe was tricky, but we always enjoyed a laugh over the frequent “pull, Amber, pull” along with a mother’s screams for her daughter to be first to the finish line.  Carol just made every day and everything we did for her fun.  And who could forget her contagious laugh?  
One of the best things about Carol was her family.  I fondly recall the frequent, if not daily, visits from Amber to our office.  Her appearance was a pleasant break from the daily routine of work, and she like Carol, could make us laugh.  
So I pay tribute to an extraordinary woman who followed an ambitious plan for her life and touched so many on her journey.

Howard S. Friedman, Distinguished Professor, UC Riverside


In 1989, Carol gave me the idea to begin studying the health and longevity of the Terman study participants, and we worked together on this project for many years. The project is now entering its third decade, has drawn millions of dollars in grant funding, and has uncovered many novel and important findings about personality, development, social relations, and health. It all started with a conversation with Carol, her research expertise, and her contagious enthusiasm.

David C. Funder, UC Riverside

Carol Tomlinson-Keasey became chair of the Department of Psychology at UCR shortly after I arrived in 1989. It quickly became clear that I had come to right place, because Carol had the intention of making UCR's Department one of the best in the nation  I remember she started us off with a planning document she titled "Assault on the Top 20." She quickly demonstrated that she was not satisfied with trying to do ANYTHING half way, and that she had the gift of strategic planning that maximized the bang-per-buck of every resource that became available. The result was a burst of brilliant hiring and other growth that did move our department into the first rank. I am sure this would not have happened without the foundation she laid during just three years as chair, before moving on to UC Davis, UCOP, and Merced. I think, reading the other comments, that what she did for Psychology at UCR was a small version of exactly what she did on a larger stage at Merced. The style sure stayed constant. I admired Carol, and am saddened by her passing. What great things she accomplished, everywhere she went.

Glenn Stanley, UC Riverside
Carol Tomlinson-Keasey assumed the chairmanship of psychology in 1989, the same year I arrived. Only days later I attended the all day psychology department retreat that Carol had organized to put the department on a path to "Assault on the Top 20."

She requested that the attire for this retreat be our "oldest, funniest, most exotic, most ribald...T-shirt" with the prize for the best attire being a bottle of wine. Carol knew how to have fun and how to create a culture that was fun to work in, while also setting the bar high.

She was a tremendous mentor with the perfect personal touch. For example, just after I finished teaching my first course, an only “ok” effort on my part, I received a beautifully hand-written card from Carol, complimenting my effort. A little thing perhaps, but with so many subtle levels of impact - and so yes, my teaching improved.

Cindi Smith, UC Riverside
For most of us, there are a handful of people that come in and out of our lives who remain forever in our memories. For me, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey will be remembered as one of my favorite administrators as I began my career at UCR. 

Arriving as a new employee to the UCR campus in 1986, I was immediately immersed in the unique ways of university life. It was oftentimes intimidating, especially since I was returning to work after being at home with small children -- then entered Carol Tomlinson-Keasey.  She was smart, friendly, fun and tall!  She took the time to make me feel a part of the team and quickly involved me in the many projects typical of a Dean’s Office. I was often amazed at the care and brilliance with which she executed the many aspects of her job as Associate Dean and then later as Dean.

Not only was the staff a part of her professional life, we were also involved in the activities and accomplishments of her children. Whether it was swim meets or science projects with rats as subjects, there was never a dull moment as Carol would tell the latest stories about the antics of Kai and Amber. Her commitment to family was always at the top of her list of priorities.  She was a woman who could do it all and do it all well.

Of course, Carol went on to do even greater things. As I followed her career and accomplishments, I was never surprised that she had risen to Chancellor of the UC Merced campus. Spending time with Carol revealed quickly that she was destined for great things. She was passionate, bold, outstanding, and gutsy in everything she did; she will be missed.


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