March 23, 2016

Passing of Jean Aldrich, 1919-2016

It is with tremendous sadness that I share the news of the passing of Jean Hamilton Aldrich, the inaugural first lady of UCI and wife of founding Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. She died this morning at the age of 96 in Irvine.

Jean was born on Sept. 29, 1919, in Corregidor, Philippines. As a child, she traveled the world with her mother and father, a career Army officer, until his death when she was 11 years old. She then moved to Tucson with her mother and went on to attend the University of Arizona, where she was named top female graduate and served as honorary captain of the ROTC cadets. She met her husband, Dan, at the university, where he was earning a master’s degree. They were married in Massachusetts in 1941.

Jean was one of the first people to visit the site of the future UC campus on the rolling hills of the Irvine Ranch. Over her countless years of service to UCI, she watched the campus and city of Irvine blossom into the bustling hub of knowledge it is today. Jean was a firm believer in making a difference in her role as first lady, and one of her initial actions at UCI was to establish a Town and Gown organization to ensure the university would develop as a vital part of the surrounding community.

Her son Dan said: “She was an incredible helpmate to my father. She set the table to allow him to succeed, which was instrumental in UCI’s success. She had a great life.”

In a 1990 interview, Jean said, “It has been a wonderful two-person career in which I have been involved. It’s been a position of public trust and responsibility. Few people are afforded the opportunity for public service. Impact on a community and its institutions is a source of both pride and unmatched life experience.”

Jean left a lasting impression on each person she met. She was an unwavering advocate, cheerleader and friend of the university who remained actively involved at UCI throughout her life, from calming student protests in the 1970s to attending the all-campus commencement ceremony with President Barack Obama in 2014 and celebrating the close of our $1 billion Shaping the Future campaign in 2015. Known for her infectious laugh, grace and wisdom, Jean was involved in health and arts projects, serving on the boards of a home for the developmentally disabled and South Coast Repertory. In 1990, she was honored with the UCI Founders Award for her tireless dedication and support.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Jean’s children, Dan, Liz and Stuart; her seven grandchildren; and her 16 great-grandchildren.

A celebration-of-life service will be announced in April. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that remembrances be sent to the Dan and Jean Aldrich Scholarship fund or the Town & Gown Scholarship fund at UCI or to Community Church Congregational in Corona del Mar.

Chancellor Howard Gillman