Aug 16, 2006 - Matt Hodgson
Dr. Eric Rofes, Associate Professor of Education at Humboldt State University, will be remembered at a community memorial service Friday, August 25, at 3:30 p.m. in Founders Hall Courtyard on the HSU campus.
Rofes, a lifelong educator and social reformer, died suddenly in Provincetown, Massachusetts, on June 26 at age 51.
A memorial was also held in San Francisco on July 15.
Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond said, “Eric Rofes’ death is both a personal and professional loss. He was a friend to whom I could turn for honest advice. Eric was a model faculty person who cared deeply for our students and for whom scholarship was a critical part of learning. Humboldt State University will be less for his loss.”
Rick Vrem, University Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, added: “We are deeply saddened by the news of Professor Rofes’ death. He has been one of Humboldt State’s best and brightest faculty members. His passion for diversity, his intellectual curiosity and his ability to promote institutional change will be profoundly missed by the campus community.”
A pioneer activist and thinker at Humboldt State and nationwide, Dr. Rofes also had a long history as a teacher, organizer and prolific author. He was coordinator of HSU’s highly acclaimed North Coast Education Summit, which annually generated new departures in education, democracy and social justice. A year ago, he became co-chair of the new Diversity Plan Action Council (DPAC), HSU’s main engine for a diverse student body, faculty and Redwood community.
“He worked tirelessly and passionately to lead movements that helped create the places where knowledge from different perspectives could be shared constructively,” said Jyoti Rawal, the other DPAC co-chair. “The kind, strong and determined energy he brought is a difficult combination to find in a leader; he will be so missed.”
In addition to being a faculty member of HSU’s Department of Education, Dr. Rofes coordinated the Multicultural Leadership Studies Program, and served as an affiliated faculty member in Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies and Multicultural Queer Studies. He was also a member of the interdisciplinary Master of Art in Environment and Community Program. He was a faculty partner with the Indian Teacher Educational Personnel Program and leader of the Elementary Education Credential Program 2001-2005.
“Eric Rofes was a life force,” said Kim Berry, Women’s Studies program leader. “More than any other person on campus he worked systematically to build institutional change for social justice.”
Before joining Humboldt State in the 1990s, Dr. Rofes was a leading activist for decades on issues related to gay and lesbian liberation, HIV/AIDS and gay men’s health, racial and economic justice and poor people’s lack of access to education.
On the national front, he was the Brooklyn-born founder of the Boston Lesbian & Gay Political Alliance, executive director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center (described as “the largest gay organization of its kind in the world”), and director of the Shanti Project, San Francisco’s path breaking AIDS organization.
Dr. Rofes taught courses in community organizing, the social foundations of education, leadership studies, teaching in higher education, and gay and lesbian issues in K-12 schools. His Fall Semester 2006 class schedule included gay men’s urban cultures and education for action.
He published a dozen books, most recently, “The Emancipatory Promise of Charter Schools: Toward a Progressive Politics of School Choice” and “A Radical Rethinking of Sexuality and Schooling: Status Quo or Status Queer.”
Addressing much of his published instruction to children, he penned books about youngsters who deal with death and dying, as well as “The Kids’ Book About Parents.” He co-authored both texts with his students.
A graduate of Harvard College, Dr. Rofes earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Studies from the University of California’s Graduate School of Education. Prior to HSU, he taught at U.C. Berkeley and Bowdoin College.
Born August 31, 1954, Eric Edward Rofes is survived by his husband, Crispin Hollings of San Francisco; his mother, Paula Casey-Rofes, of Boynton Beach, Florida and by his brother, Peter, who resides in Milwaukee.
In lieu of flowers, donations should be directed to the Ronda Marshall Scholarship Fund for Native American ‘teachers-to-be’ — a scholarship Rofes helped create to memorialize his former graduate student — via the HSU Gift Processing Center, 1 Harpst Street, Arcata, CA 95521, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Suite 1504, 80 Maiden Lane, New York, New York 10038 (212/604-9831 and www.thetaskforce.org ), or the Highlander Research and Education Center, which addresses economic, worker, and environmental needs, at 1959 Highlander Way, New Market, Tennessee (865/933-3443 or email@example.com ).