Richard Whitney at table with friends

In Memoriam: Reflections on Richard E. Whitney

(Pictured above left to right: Dr. Dick Morrow, Dr. Hymon Johnson, Richard Whitney, Karen Sharkey, Lillian Seldeen.)

The following reflections honor Richard Whitney (November 12, 1944 – December 14, 2020) who served Antioch University for over 35 years, most recently as Executive Dean of Institutional Research. He passed away quietly after a long illness in December and was preceded in death by his loving wife Lynda in August 2018.

Barbara Lipinski, PhD, JD, Provost and CEO, Antioch University Santa Barbara
Richard Whitney was an amazingly talented educator and trusted colleague, a true Renaissance man who was loved and appreciated by his students and everyone he worked with. In mourning his loss, I am moved to share how my personal joy of working at the university since 2007 was directly related to Richard, given his authentic collegiality, dedication, and commitment to excellent work – and of course his exquisite sense of humor! I would often leave a meeting with Richard with a smile or pleasant sense, simply from being in his presence.

It was a true pleasure to interact with him on a daily basis, to listen to his perspective and insights on academic programming as well as university-wide administrative manners. Being acutely attuned to social justice matters as a community-serving institution, experiential learning was at the forefront of his innovative thinking as well as our student, staff, and faculty service to the community. He made a difference on a daily basis and knew how to inspire others to prioritize the importance of contributing to society through right action and civil discourse.

Richard’s acute understanding of the infrastructure of academia, his dedication to a quality student-centered experience, and his deep respect and resonant love of those he worked with was a rare quality, palpable and inspirational. I was touched by the level of humility he possessed and demonstrated, in light of his numerous accomplishments for the university and in his personal life. For example, he did not seek nor desire distinguished emeritus status and turned down consideration for this honor on four separate occasions. Upon his retirement he preferred a smaller gathering in our campus Community Hall rather than a huge publicized Santa Barbara sendoff. We gathered and regaled him with fond stories and honored his years of transformational work.

Richard will be deeply missed, and I will always remain grateful to him for enriching my life and his numerous contributions to our vibrant university community. May he rest in peace and his memories serve to sustain us.

Dale A. Johnston, PhD, President Emeritus; Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Humanities
When I joined Antioch University as Provost (later President) in January of 1989, the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara campuses were one administrative unit (Antioch University Southern California), and Donna Starr, Terry Keeney, and Richard Whitney were the key people leading the emerging Santa Barbara enterprise. Donna steered the organization on a day-to-day basis and Terry and Richard provided academic leadership and insight.

As I look back on Richard’s role in all of this, he was concerned about three things.  First, he was committed to the quality of teaching and learning. He worked tirelessly to improved existing programs and to create new programs responsive to the needs of the Santa Barbara area. He reviewed syllabi with a critical eye; he hired knowledgeable and inspiring adjunct faculty.

Second, Richard was passionately concerned about the student experience on campus.  As a social psychologist, he understood that context was as important as content, and he deeply appreciated the issues that confront adult learners returning to college after life-altering experiences. I can remember him asking during many a leadership meeting: “How will that affect our students?” Richard always went above and beyond the call of duty to assist students to succeed in their Antioch education. He mentored hundreds over the years who without his expert guidance and friendship would not have achieved their educational goals.

Finally, Richard was always concerned about institutional governance and believed that the views of all stakeholders should be sought. I remember community meetings on the Santa Barbara campus where Richard would intervene and suggest that we ask so-and-so what they thought about an issue. He always strove to be inclusive and to seek a fair and just solution to issues as they arose. And I must say, when Richard felt that fairness and justice were not being legitimately pursued, he could mount a fiery and rousing response. As the administrator in charge, I periodically felt the weight of Richard’s critique, which often changed the course of a discussion and the outcome.

In many ways, Richard was the heart and soul of the Santa Barbara campus as he deeply cared about the success of this small but vibrant institution attempting to provide the Antioch educational experience in a small coastal city. He was a thoroughgoing academic who fostered quality programs, who cared about students and their success, and who fought for institutional fairness and justice. Richard Whitney was a true Antiochian, and I am pleased to call him a colleague and friend. He will be missed.

Marianne D’Emidio-Caston, PhD, Former Core Faculty, Director of Teacher Education, and Program Chair
Richard Whitney changed my life. He offered me a position as core faculty in the brand new Teacher Education program when I was still at UCSB. It took another year before he asked me again, and at that point, I was ready to make a career move from the UC system to Antioch, where I felt immediately at home. Richard gave me professional regard I had not ever experienced. While he was the Dean of AUSB, he lived his respect for us. He led our small campus with sensitivity and care. I am deeply grateful for the almost 20 years I spent at Antioch and the opportunity Richard gave me to fulfill my dream as a teacher educator and full-time faculty member. Richard will always have a place in my heart as a gentle soul and supportive leader.

Lois Philips, PhD, Former Faculty and Co-Founder of AUSB Campus
You may not know that Richard was faculty at AULA when I met him during my initial orientation, and I “stole” him from the LA campus when we opened the campus. He said he was ready for a change and a new challenge. His knowledge of the Antioch system was the reason I was able to hit the ground running in promoting the campus and recruiting students, finding partners, getting press, etc.

I owed him so much; I say that as someone who took on a role that was a huge leap from my prior teaching roles. I loved the Antioch mission and learned I was entrepreneurial (before the term was trendy) but couldn’t have been liberated to do outreach/PR in launching the campus if he didn’t provide stability for incoming students. After all, Antioch was so unknown in these parts and so, the people who spoke to potential students and advised students were the real stars of the launch. And I’d include the wonderful, charismatic, and brilliant Dr. Terry Keeney in that early leadership mix.

People who worked more closely with Richard as a faculty member appreciated his intelligence and competence re the AU system, and loved his warmth and humor. They knew him in a whole other way, kept in close touch over the years including since he retired, and are so bereft. He provided stability during the many executive leadership transitions that I’m sure were difficult. He was one of a kind and I was so privileged to know him.

Terry Keeney, PhD
Richard was a good man. That is not something I say lightly. It is a too rare and precious thing. The most powerful memories I have of Richard are his talking to me about the brutality of the Los Angeles police that he experienced and witnessed as a boy and young man. I believe it was these experiences that motivated his lifelong mission to speak truth to power and to be an educator so that others could gain the belief, knowledge, and courage to do so as well.

Working as a colleague alongside Richard was easy. He was clear, calm, and straightforward.  He consistently challenged us to critically examine our actions to guard against Antioch’s mission of fostering change from devolving into an intolerance of those who did not align with every aspect of our personal beliefs. Although I’m saddened by his death, Richard had no reason in Horace Mann’s words to “be ashamed to die” because he won “many victories for humanity.”

Lillian Seldeen,  MBA, MA, Faculty Emeritus, Former Program Chair
Richard was a champion of justice, fairness, and equality. A lifelong educator, he changed the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues over the years. A cat lover, film devotee, mystery writer, and connoisseur of fine food and wine, Richard was devoted to his late wife, Lynda. He was a true friend who was always ready with a smile and a hug. For me personally, he was also my mentor. It is not an understatement to say I owe my career in higher education to Richard. In recent years, due to failing health, he was no longer able to participate in the things he loved. But his spirits and wit never failed. He ended every phone call with “I love you.” I was blessed to be within his circle of treasured friends. Rest in Peace, Richard.

Nanci Debevec Braunschweiger, Former Human Resources Director
Richard was a great friend and colleague having worked closely together at Antioch. He was smart, level-headed, kind, and had a great sense of humor all the while being a very caring and sensitive person. I’m very sad to hear this news. He was the strength of the Santa Barbara campus for many years. Rest in Peace, Richard.

Lorna Hunt, Former AUSB Staff Member
Richard Whitney was an amazing colleague and the best kind of friend.

Jan Rudestam, PhD, Former Faculty, Program Chair
Richard was a warm, kind and caring person. And he had a wry sense of humor. I first met him at Antioch’s Santa Barbara Street location, where Playa Azul Mexican Restaurant is now. But it wasn’t until we moved to Garden Street that I got to know him well. My favorite memory is going for lunch at The Wine Cask, sitting in the lovely outdoor garden, and ordering the most delicious meals. Richard was writing a mystery novel about a detective who loved to cook and to eat. Our lunches were spent discussing the art of writing fiction. I kept hoping he would let me read his combination detective novel and cookbook, but he was reluctant to let anyone see it until it was finished. I don’t know if he ever did finish it. I hope he enjoyed the process of writing and crafting his work.

Dick Morrow, PhD, Faculty Emeritus, Former Program Chair
Sad news indeed. I owe the last 25 years of my academic career to Richard who, as program chair, hired me to teach at Antioch University and became a mentor and colleague, and friend. The picture, which includes Karen Morgan and Hymon Johnson, was taken by Lillian Seldeen. The five of us Antioch ‘old-timers’ would gather annually after we retired, a measure of the true friendships we developed over many years. It was Richard who brought us all in and brought us together as friends. As a devoted educator, he raised others up to their potential. He brought strong moral principles to his commitment to justice for all, tempered with a wry sense of humor and a hearty laugh. We all loved this guy. He will be truly missed.

Hymon Johnson, MBA, EdD, Faculty Emeritus
It is difficult to express how much I gained professionally and personally by knowing, observing, and working with Richard. From the time I joined the Santa Barbara campus in 1992, Richard demonstrated his deep dedication and ever-resilient determination to serve students, faculty, and staff. In addition to his creative and characteristic concern for the better-being of those he encountered, his notable participation in our annual Service Day to treat special needs students and their teachers to a day at the Santa Barbara Zoo was only one of the many memorable acts of service in which Richard routinely and selflessly engaged.

After we retired, those I refer to as ‘The Antioch Five’ (Richard, Dick Morrow, Lillian Seldeen, Karen Sharkey, and me) met annually for lunch until it was no longer possible. Richard meant a lot to so many, and I have several wonderful stories I could tell for hours on end. Suffice it to say that association with Richard was enlightening, enriching, and often fun. Richard literally embodied the Santa Barbara campus for several years. He will be fondly remembered and honored for years to come.

Stephanie Holland, AUSB Senior Program Coordinator 
When I learned of Richard’s passing, I felt undone. There was something reassuring knowing that he was in the world, beaming his smile at those lucky enough to cross his path. He was the kind of person that made me feel inspired by and have faith in humanity. I witnessed him bringing out the best in others over and over again, he was our bright star. I think he was so dear to everyone who knew him. I cherished his kindness, his smile, his humor, and his genuine care. He passed around the time of a solar eclipse and I like to think he has now become part of the light. He shone so brightly while he walked among us.

Richard Whitney’s Career at Antioch University
2009-2013 – Executive Dean of Institutional Research (AUSB)
1999-2009 – Dean of Academic Affairs (AUSB)
1997-1999 – Associate Dean of Academic Affairs (AUSB)
1987-1997 – Chair, BA in Liberal Studies Program (AUSB)
1986-1987 – Core Faculty, BA Program (AUSB)
1979-1982- Chair, MA in Psychology Program (AUSB)
1978-1979 – Core Faculty, MA in Clinical Psychology Program (AULA)


Richard Whitney at restaurant table with friends
Karen Sharkey, Dr. Hymon Johnson, Richard Whitney (with his infectious smile), Dr. Dick Morrow


Formal Resolution Celebrating, Recognizing, and Honoring Richard Whitney’s Service on Behalf of the AUSB Academic Community, December 31, 2013

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney, Executive Dean of Institutional Research, has served the university with commitment and dedication for over 35 years,

WHEREAS, because of his passion for students and his impact on their social and academic success, Richard Whitney served with positive contributions to the growth and vitality of the entire student body,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney has epitomized the social justice mission of the university through his daily work,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney provided remarkable leadership in the comprehensive institutional research endeavors as Executive Dean of Institutional Research,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney’s highly collaborative work with the President and Provost contributed to the success of the Santa Barbara campus,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney played a significant role on University’s Assessment Resource Team, the Institutional Review Board, and the Academic Leadership Team,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney was instrumental in the complex WASC and HLC self study and accreditation efforts,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney has left an indelible legacy at AUSB by developing the campus over three decades and forging new academic programs,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney has been an outstanding ambassador for AUSB, has been deeply appreciated, and will be missed dearly,

WHEREAS, Richard Whitney has chosen to retire from university service on December 31, 2013,

IT WAS RESOLVED …, on behalf of the academic community of trustees, administration, students, staff, and faculty, hereby celebrates and recognizes Richard for more than 35 years of contributions and service to the growth and success of Antioch University Santa Barbara, and wish him well in this new chapter of his accomplished life.