Trabant dies at 92, remembered for promoting equality
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 20:08
Edward Arthur Trabant, who served as the university’s president for more than two decades, died July 20 following a short illness. He was 92.
Trabant held his position from 1968 to 1987. He retired, but returned in 1988 after his successor left according to Carol Hoffecker, Richards Professor Emerita of History.
“Trabant was asked to come back and serve as interim president,” she said. “He did that and kept everything on keel.”
In 1990, Trabant retired for good and was named President Emeritus. In 1996, Trabant University Center was named in his honor, Hoffecker said.
“He made every effort to get to know the students and talk to them personally, to find out what was on their minds, and so when they decided they needed to build a new student center it just seemed appropriate to name it after him,” she said.
Born on February 28, 1920, in Los Angeles, Trabant received his bachelor’s degree from Occidental College and held positions at a number of universities before coming to Delaware to serve as president. Many professors and administrators remember him as a fair, strong leader who made significant decisions for the university during a chaotic period.
Dan Rich, former provost and current professor of public policy, said Trabant joined the university during a difficult time.
“He came in at one the most turbulent times in higher education history, perhaps in American history,” Rich said.
Stuart Sharkey, human development and faculty studies professor said Trabant maintained the school’s safety through his strong leadership.
“Across the U.S. at the time there were marches, bombings, police were called, students were killed,” Sharkey said. “President Trabant kept, by his actions, the University of Delaware calm. We never had to call police. I think that’s very significant.”
Trabant is also remembered for the many changes during his tenure. Hoffecker said he increased rights for both women and minorities during a time when there had been riots and marches by students on other college campuses.
“He had a great deal of respect for the students and sympathy for their positions,” she said, citing a candlelight vigil held by university students in 1970 following the Kent State shootings.
“They came past the president’s house and President Trabant and his wife joined them in the march,” she said. “That was a very significant gesture on President Trabant’s part.”
Trabant was responsible for opening several new academic buildings and residence halls. He stood firm with his decision to open Harrington Residence Hall as the first coed residence hall at the university, Sharkey said.
“This truly needed the president’s support because the reaction throughout the state from legislators and parents was vicious,” he said. “President Trabant received many vicious letters. He answered them and defended the decision.”