Dr. Darrick Danta, associate dean for college of social and behavioral sciences, died Feb. 15 in a mountain climbing accident.
Danta, 58, climbed the New York mountains in the Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County Friday morning, and never returned home, said colleague and friend Elizabeth Adams, senior director of undergraduate studies.
His wife alerted a search and rescue team in San Bernadino County, Adams said. His body was found Saturday morning on the mountain side.
Danta’s legacy is strong not only in his department, but in the university, Adams said.
“He did a lot of good to help students over the years as a faculty member and associate dean,” she said. “He was dedicated to making sure people got the education they deserved.”
Jim Craine, associate professor of the department, said it was difficult to sum up Danta in one word and that he was a wonderful colleague.
“He was a great teacher, great with students, great for the university,” Craine said. “He made the department what it was, valued the institution of academia and took great pride in what he did.”
Danta was also committed to CSUN’s geography department and had been working at the university since August 1985 as an associate professor. Despite controversy that lead to a suspension in 1989, Danta became chair in August 2007 he and later became the associate dean for behavioral sciences in February 2011.
Shawna Dark, chair of the geography department, said Danta received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree at CSUN. He then returned to the university to become an associate professor after receiving his Ph.D at Ohio State University.
Dark said everyone in the department, including herself, thought Danta was always a mentor.
“He was an encompassing representation of everything the department is,” Dark said.
Steve Graves, associate professor in the geography department, said Danta was very active in the Association of Pacific Coast Geography, Sierra Club, and California Geographical Society in addition to being his friend, colleague and boss.
“Darrick was a strong advocate for the geography department here at CSUN,” Graves said. “He been here as a student and really loved the department. We have a small department and it is nice when someone is looking out for our interests.”
Graves also said Danta was always working hard to make sure students had field experience.
“He worked hard on behalf of students here to ensure they got adequate resources to get the things they needed in their training,” he said.
Graves said the lesson learned from this tragic accident is to live life and do something everyone loves because tomorrow is never promised.
Adams said there will be a campus service but it won’t be until later in the semester because the university has to make sure the family has their private service first. Dark added that there have been many discussions of a scholarship in his name.
Danta is survived by his wife, Sara.
“We all are really grieving and struggling with how to handle his sudden death,” Adams said. “We will remember him by doing what he would have wanted us to do which, is make sure CSUN is being the best it can be. It is hard when you miss your friend.”