Edward Arthur Trabant, the 22nd and 24th president of the University of Delaware, died July 20, 2012, at the Cokesbury Village Health Care Center in Hockessin, Del., after a brief illness. He was 92.
View the E. A. Trabant photo gallery at www.udel.edu/udphotos.
"E. Arthur Trabant guided the University of Delaware through a crucial stage in its development into a national university," UD President Patrick T. Harker said. "When he stepped down as president a second time in 1990, the University was a much different institution from the one he came to in 1968--with nearly twice as many undergraduates, a range of innovative academic programs and an expanded physical campus. His legacy shines today on our campus and in the accomplishments of the many students, faculty and colleagues he led for more than two decades."
Noted Delaware historian Carol Hoffecker said, "E. Arthur Trabant came to the University of Delaware in the late 1960s, a time of campus unrest coupled with the rapid expansion of the student body and faculty. From the first he demonstrated leadership skills that turned these difficult circumstances into great opportunities for the University and for the state of Delaware. … The University of Delaware, its students and faculty and our state owe a great debt of gratitude to this courageous, visionary and humane individual."
President Trabant's 19-year, first term, from 1968-1987, was one of the longest presidencies of a major university in modern times. He led the campus through a period of tremendous growth of both the student body and physical plant. Undergraduate enrollment rose from less than 7,500 to more than 15,000, new academic programs were developed and the physical campus grew with the addition of residence halls, classrooms and research buildings.
Concerned with educational opportunities for women, he created a Commission on the Status of Women and an Office of Women's Affairs. His many accomplishments included the creation of what is now the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, the prestigious Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, the Institute of Energy Conversion, Winter Session, the development of what is now the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the University Honors Program and the forerunner of what is now the Associate in Arts Program.
Among the buildings added to the campus during his tenure are Clayton Hall, Smith Hall, Purnell Hall, Kirkbride Lecture Hall, Willard Hall Education Building, McDowell Hall, Amy E. du Pont Music Building, McKinly Laboratory, Spencer Laboratory, Worrilow Hall, Christiana Towers, Dickinson Residence Hall Complex and the University's marine studies campus in Lewes, as well as a major addition to the Morris Library.
He also expanded the University's partnership with state departments, private businesses, research interests and overseas institutions.
In the area of athletics, President Trabant presided during the Title IX years and played a key role as Delaware's women's athletics program moved from an experimental program to varsity status in the early 1970s. During his tenure, UD football had 183 wins -- the most of any UD president -- and three national titles.
He returned to the presidency in 1988, after the resignation of his successor Russel C. Jones. At the conclusion of his second term, in 1990, the University Board of Trustees, named him president emeritus.
At the University's Commencement in May of that year, Andrew B. Kirkpatrick Jr., chairman of the University's Board of Trustees, officially conferred on him the title and said, "As the 22nd president of the University, he guided the evolution of the University of Delaware during periods of turmoil, change, growth and challenges, and through his vision and courage, guided the direction of the institution to a prominent position among colleges and universities in the United State; as 24th president of the University, Arthur Trabant has served with steadfast loyalty and devotion, restoring faith and commitment to the institution from all members of our University community."
In an interview at the end of his second term, President Trabant said his overriding goal had been "to try to make an environment where people could fulfill themselve and at the same time see how they could be part of a university community by contributing to the overall advancement of the University, as well as their own careers."
In 1996, the Trabant University Center was named in his honor. At the dedication ceremony, Kirkpatrick said, "Together, Art and [his wife] Jerry and their synergy have provided the University of Delaware and the state of Delaware with a unique legacy of integrity, compassion and understanding that will be memorialized for all time by this signature building we dedicate today."
Each year, the University presents the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women's Equity, created in recognition of President Trabant's support for women's equity. The award is given to an individual, department, unit or committee that has contributed to the equality of women on campus.
Edward Arthur Trabant was born Feb. 28, 1920, in Los Angeles. A 1941 graduate of Occidental College, he received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics in 1947 from the California Institute of Technology.
From 1947-60, he held a variety of positions at Purdue University, including professor of engineering, director of a nuclear engineering laboratory, head of the Division of Engineering Sciences and assistant dean of the graduate school.
President Trabant served as dean of the School of Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1960-66, and was vice president for academic affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology from 1966-68, before coming to UD.
President Trabant served on the executive committee of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and on the boards of the Winterthur Museum, the Wilmington Medical Center, the Delaware Art Museum, the Council on Administration of Justice and the Governor's Technical Advisory Committee. He was a member of the American Society for Engineering Education, ASME, the American Mathematical Society, the American Nuclear Society, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.
President Trabant is survived by his wife of 68 years, Jeraldine Merlyn Shanessy Trabant, and their three daughters, Jeri, Arta and Amanda.
President E. Arthur Trabant, who died July 20, 2012, is remembered by his University of Delaware friends and colleagues.
E. Arthur Trabant guided the University of Delaware through a crucial stage in its development into a national university. When he stepped down as president a second time in 1990, the University was a much different institution from the one he came to in 1968--with nearly twice as many undergraduates, a range of innovative academic programs and an expanded physical campus. His legacy shines today on our campus and in the accomplishments of the many students, faculty and colleagues he led for more than two decades.
Among his numerous impressive contributions to the University of Delaware, Dr. E. Arthur Trabant was a progressive and visionary leader in the area of gender equity. This included an instrumental role in the early successful implementation of Title IX at UD and an enduring commitment to its spirit throughout his tenure as President. It truly was an honor to have had the opportunity to develop as a young professional under his leadership.
E. Arthur Trabant came to the University of Delaware in the late 1960s, a time of campus unrest coupled with the rapid expansion of the student body and faculty. From the first he demonstrated leadership skills that turned these difficult circumstances into great opportunities for the University and for the state of Delaware. When disaffected students held a candle light procession to show their solidarity and mourning for the students killed at Kent State, President Trabant and his wife, Jerry did not put down the procession, they joined it.
His was an open presidency. Recognizing the opportunity to redesign the rapidly growing academic institution, he created the Community Design Commission made up of students, faculty and administrators to chart the future. He championed rights and opportunities for minorities and women and liberalized the rules for students while giving them greater responsibility. The faculty were encouraged to create new knowledge as well as to transmit what is already known. President Trabant was especially proud of the creation of new programs that have benefitted our state and beyond such as continuing education for retirees and graduate colleges in the fields of marine studies and urban affairs and public policy.
The University of Delaware, its students and faculty and our state owe a great debt of gratitude to this courageous, visionary, and humane individual.
During Dr. Trabant's tenure as president, his leadership was the key factor in transitioning the University of Delaware to an even stronger research, teaching and public service institution. He inspired me and others around him with his positive approach to advancing the quality of, as he would say it, 'our university.' It was an honor to know him and work closely with him for many years.
Art Trabant became president of the University of Delaware at one of the most turbulent times on America's campuses. He navigated through those troubled times with determination, but at the same time kept his focus on enhancing the University's academic character. In his two decades of leadership, undergraduate enrollments grew dramatically, new graduate programs and colleges were launched, and the research and public service roles of the university were greatly expanded. Most important, President Trabant strengthened the faculty. He recruited a large number of new faculty who were committed to higher standards of teaching and scholarship, and who were equally committed to becoming more engaged than their predecessors in academic governance. He was especially proud of his efforts at promoting gender equity, and the changes he initiated greatly improved the representation and status of women on the faculty and in the student body. Art Trabant left an indelible imprint on the University's character, and he set the trajectory for its emergence as a major public university.
President Trabant had a long and productive tenure at the University of Delaware. His accomplishments and his dedication established benchmarks for all of us who have or will follow him. On the personal note, Louise and I will be forever grateful to Art and Jerry for their welcome and their many kindnesses upon our arrival at the University.
The Board of Trustees is profoundly grateful to President Trabant for his many years of dedicated and loyal service to the University of Delaware. His leadership and vision guided the University through a period of rapid and responsible growth that transformed the campus and provided expanded opportunities for students and faculty. President Trabant oversaw innovations, from Winter Session to the University Honors Program, that continue to enhance the University of Delaware today.
When President Trabant arrived at the University of Delaware in 1968, he identified a significant opportunity for the University. At that time with the release of the Stratton Commission Report, the nation was awakened to the ever-increasing multi-use and multi-conflict demands of society on its marine and coastal resources. President Trabant recognized that the University of Delaware had no organized academic program in the area of marine studies and thus no way to address ocean and coastal issues even though the state of Delaware is located entirely within the coastal zone. It was President Trabant's vision and support that resulted in the formation of the interdisciplinary Graduate College of Marine Studies (CMS) in June 1970. The newly formed college became the home of the nascent Sea Grant Program and by 1976 was designated the ninth Sea Grant College Program in the nation. That same year another hallmark event occurred with the arrival of the university's first coastal oceanographic research vessel, the R/V Cape Henlopen that resulted in UD's joining the nation's academic research vessel fleet. Today the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, with its international reputation for excellence, stands on the shoulders of the foresight and commitment provided by President Trabant 44 years ago. Without his energy and commitment, the rapid evolution of this college would not have occurred.