Sad news regarding Chancellor Emeritus Robert Sinsheimer

To: UC Santa Cruz community

From: Chancellor George R. Blumenthal

It is with a very heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Emeritus Robert Sinsheimer. Bob, an internationally acclaimed biologist, died peacefully at his home on Saturday, April 22, surrounded by family.

Not many can say they played a key role in the evolution of a great public university, but that's precisely what Bob did. He leaves a lasting legacy both here at UC Santa Cruz, where he was chancellor from 1977 to 1987, and in the annals of science. Certainly many played a role in the historic push to map the human genome, but Bob had the audacious vision, beckoning a host of eminent biologists to UC Santa Cruz in 1985 to map out how it could actually be done. That circle was completed 15 years later, when UC Santa Cruz assembled the first sequence of the human genome. The project, fittingly, started and ended here.

While Bob was a pre-eminent scientist, he also was a thoughtful campus leader. He advocated for us. He consulted faculty. He listened to students — even when he didn’t always agree. Our esteemed Slug was adopted during Bob’s tenure, much to his initial chagrin. We laughed about it years later. He had become a fan.  

Bob had a vigor for life. While I first met him when he was chancellor, my wife Kelly and I had the pleasure of getting to know Bob and his wife Karen better after I became chancellor. We attended his 95th birthday celebration in Santa Barbara a couple of years ago. Incredibly, he was still going into the UC Santa Barbara biology labs even then, and working out with a personal trainer three times a week. That was Bob — active, engaged, and always forward-looking.

The loss of his wife Karen in 2015 was a painful blow. She was a vibrant person herself who helped transform University House into a hub of social and intellectual engagement for the campus and the community. They were a fantastic and formidable pair.

I hope you'll join me in taking a moment to recognize Bob’s incredible contributions to campus. Kelly and I extend our condolences to his family, and to the many people on and off campus who had the good fortune to call Bob a colleague or friend.

A memorial service is being planned; the family asks that any contributions in Bob’s memory be made to The UC Santa Cruz Foundation - Sinsheimer Biological Research Fund, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064.