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Celebration set to honor life of former Sac State President Donald R. Gerth

Former Sacramento State President Donald R. Gerth was an active part of campus life even after he retired in 2003. Gerth, who is the University's longest-serving president, died in December following a life of service to higher education. (Sacramento State file)

Sacramento State and the broader community will pay tribute to Donald R. Gerth, the University’s president from 1984 through 2003, during an on-campus Celebration of Life later this month.

Gerth, Sac State’s longest-serving president, died on Dec. 6 at age 93. His passing spurred an outpouring of tributes and remembrances from throughout campus, the CSU system, and beyond.

The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. March 20 in the University Union Ballroom. It also will be livestreamed on the University website.

The Office of the President will distribute green lapel ribbon pins in Gerth's honor on campus March 15-18. Faculty, staff, students, and others can pick up pins in the President's Office, Sacramento Hall 206, or at the Donald & Beverly Gerth Special Collections and University Archives, Library 1502.

“Sacramento State would not be the incredible University it is today without the leadership of Don Gerth, whose impact is felt on literally every corner of campus as well as throughout the region and the CSU,” Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen said. “The Celebration of Life will be truly that – a tribute and testament to a remarkable man who dedicated his life to higher education and helped transform the lives of countless students.”

Donald R. Gerth portrait
Donald R. Gerth served as president of Sac State from 1984 to 2003 and left an indelible mark on campus. (Sacramento State file)

Nelsen will offer welcoming remarks. Other scheduled speakers are Jolene Koester, emeritus president of CSU Northridge, and Sac State alumnus and Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra, who was president of Associated Students Inc. during Gerth’s final year at Sac State.

Gerth fashioned a 45-year career in higher education. Before leading Sac State, his work included service as an associate dean at San Francisco State University, Chico State dean of students, and president of CSU Dominguez Hills.

Under Gerth, Sac State’s enrollment grew from 22,000 to 28,000 students, including a doubling of the number of Asian and Latinx students. He oversaw more than $100 million in public and private funding that added 1.2 million square feet of structures on campus and modernized existing buildings. He led as the University generated $54 million in a 50th anniversary fundraising campaign in 1997, and spearheaded creation of important new programs that included the School of the Arts, the Center for California Studies, and the Master’s in Public Policy and Administration.

His legacy at Sac State continues through the Donald and Beverly Gerth Special Collections and University Archives, renamed for Gerth and his wife in 2018 following their $300,000 donation to modernize the archives and make them more accessible.

All guests at the Celebration of Life, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, will be asked to wear a face covering during the event. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the President Emeritus Donald R. Gerth Memorial Scholarship fund.

University Librarian Amy Kautzman, Beverly Gerth, Donald R. Gerth, and Sac State President Robert Nelsen, standing as Donald Gerth cuts a green ribbon, in front of the University's Special Collections and Archives
In 2018, Donald R. Gerth and his wife, Beverly, second from left, donated $300,000 to the Sac State's Special Collections and University Archives, which were renamed in their honor. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)


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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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