Elizabeth Penaat, former vice chancellor of UCSC, dies at 68

She was one of the first women in the U.S. to head the business operations of a university

Elizabeth A. Penaat, a founding member of UC Santa Cruz's administrative staff who later became a vice chancellor on campus, died on Thursday, April 25, at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz after a lengthy illness. She was 68.

Named vice chancellor for operations and employee affairs at UCSC in 1975, Penaat was one of the first women named to oversee the business operations of a major U.S. university. "Elizabeth not only was an important figure in UCSC's founding, her subsequent promotion to vice chancellor helped pave the way for a generation of female administrators across the country," said Harold Hyde, who in 1964--a year before UCSC opened to students--asked Penaat to join the administrative team that was establishing the campus.

A native of San Francisco, Penaat grew up in San Carlos and graduated with honors from Mills College in Oakland with degrees in three majors: politics, economics, and philosophy. She joined UCSC after working with the Asia Foundation in San Francisco and in the electronics industry in Silicon Valley. "Elizabeth was a pioneer staff member who was instrumental in building a major university from the ground up," said Hyde, then vice chancellor for business and finance at UCSC.

Upon the retirement of Hyde, former UCSC chancellor Mark Christensen and the UC Regents named Penaat vice chancellor, a promotion that represented an important moment in the university's administrative history, Hyde said. "It sent a signal that women administrators could aspire to become vice chancellors," said Hyde, a longtime friend.

During a 17-year tenure at UCSC that ended with her retirement in 1981, Penaat helped start the campus's building, business, budget, computing, personnel, accounting, housing, and public-safety activities. She was also instrumental in the development of the campus's Farm & Garden. "Alan Chadwick, a charismatic organic gardener, had started a four-acre garden and on-campus farm using the French intensive method of cultivation," Hyde remembered. "Chadwick hated bureaucrats and reporting to anyone, but Elizabeth managed to gain his trust and cooperation and advance the project. These activities have evolved into the campus's Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems."

Since coming to UCSC in 1964, Penaat had lived in Ben Lomond in her family's former summer home, a residence that she helped build when she was 10 years old. "We built the place during the war, using wood, windows, and flooring from half an old Army barracks bought as surplus in San Francisco's Civic Center," she once said.

Penaat was also active in community affairs, having served terms as president of the Santa Cruz Red Cross and the United Way of Santa Cruz County, and as a member of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County. She was also an active member of St. John's Church in Felton.

Penaat is survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Nan and Clyde Mathieu, of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Private services, which are being coordinated by Norman's Family Chapel in Santa Cruz, are pending.

At the family's request, contributions in Elizabeth Penaat's memory should be designated for the Farm & Garden and sent to: the UC Santa Cruz Foundation, UCSC Gift Administration, Carriage House, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.


Editor's Note: A photograph of Penaat may be obtained by contacting Jim Burns in UCSC's Public Information Office (831/459-2495).