Richard Gilman dies at 92; longtime president raised Occidental College’s national profile


Richard C. Gilman, the longest-serving president in Occidental College history, has died. He was 92.

Gilman died Friday at his Pasadena home. His death was confirmed by officials at Occidental, where Gilman served as president for 23 years before retiring in 1988.

During his tenure, the Eagle Rock school’s endowment grew from $11 million to $130 million, they said. The number of full-time faculty members also increased and several new buildings were completed, including a theater and residence hall. Athletic facilities were expanded when the college became a practice facility for athletes competing in the 1984 Olympics.


“The evidence of Dick’s lifelong devotion to Occidental College is evident nearly everywhere one turns on the campus,” said Jonathan Veitch, Occidental’s current president.

Gilman was born on July 28,1923, in Cambridge, Mass. He attended Dartmouth College and was a Navy officer during World War II, serving aboard the Shangri-La in the Pacific.

He received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University in 1952 and taught at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. He was also a philosophy professor and administrator at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., before he was named Occidental’s 10th president.

In addition to increasing the school’s endowment and faculty, Gilman also called for the establishment of new academic programs, including American studies, urban studies and biochemistry.

Occidental’s national profile grew under his leadership, The Times noted in a 1988 news article. “The selective college has grown in wealth and stature, maintained fiercely loyal alumni support and begun to compete with better-known colleges of the East,” the paper wrote.

Gilman overlapped with President Obama, who was a student at Occidental from 1979 to 1981.


Gilman was preceded in death by his first wife, Lucille, in 1978 and his second wife, Sarah, in 1986. He is survived by daughter Marsha, sons Bradley, Brian and Tucker, and six grandchildren.

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