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In memory: Professor Emeritus Ronald Alvarado

Ronald H. Alvarado
September 15, 2011

Ronald H. Alvarado, a Professor Emeritus of Zoology at Arizona State University, died Sept. 9. He was 77. A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m., Sept. 17, at the Tempe Women’s Club, 1290 S. Mill Ave., Tempe. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to Hospice of the Valley.

Born in San Bernardino, Calif., Alvarado earned a bachelor's degree at the University of California, Riverside, and a master’s degree and doctorate at Washington State University.

He began his career as a zoo-physiology professor at Oregon State University before moving to Arizona State in 1974. During his tenure at ASU, he served as department chair, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and president of the Faculty Senate.

In addition to his work at ASU, Alvarado served as a program director of physiology with the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC. After a lifetime of teaching and research, he served as associate dean for ASU's College of Extended Education creating degree completion programs for adult learners.

After retirement in 1996, he became a Professor Emeritus and was instrumental in the development of the general laboratories for ASU's Downtown Campus. He also was a member of the college council of Emeritus College.

A story in the School of Life Sciences newsletter in fall 2005 noted that Alvarado “vowed never to go back to farming once he left the small San Bernardino citrus ranch that was his birth place.” However, much to his surprise, after retirement, Alvarado spent Thursdays in a classroom filled with middle school students at Marigold Elementary School, a charter school in Central Phoenix. He used hands-on activities to teach science and the classroom was referred to as “the farm.”

“He came to ASU as the department chair the same year that I did, 1974. He was a great department chair who helped establish the direction of the zoology department in the 1970s,” said Elliott Goldstein, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences. “He was a physiologist and a really good guy, friendly and open.”

“Ron was a faculty mentor to a number of young faculty, myself included,” said Richard Satterlie, who was a professor in the School of Life Sciences and is now at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. “Ron demonstrated that one could maintain an active research lab, high quality in the classroom, and an active involvement in service both within and outside of the university. And, he always did it with a smile and an encouraging word.”

"Ron Alvarado was a gifted teacher, a compassionate and wise administrator and a loyal friend,” said Bette DeGraw, Dean Emerita, Extended Education, and Professor Emerita, Public Affairs. “He devoted himself to ASU for more than four decades as he kept working even through two retirements.

“As associate dean of the ASU College of Extended Education in the mid-'90s, he created the academic plan for serving part-time adult students. He convinced departments and deans to offer evening classes so that students could complete degrees in the most in-demand majors. Those courses were offered at various locations in the Valley, including the Downtown Center and online,” DeGraw said.

“Even after his first retirement in 1996, he continued to track student progress and completion rates in the evening degree programs. His experience as a faculty and college leader made him invaluable to our work with adult learners and to the growth of the Extended Campus, which eventually led to the Downtown Phoenix campus,” DeGraw noted. “On a more personal level, Ron was a cherished addition to our college and a good friend. He mentored and guided all of us as we charted the course for part-time students in the university. He is sorely missed."

Alvarado is preceded in death by his parents, Herbert and Margaret, and his brother, Michael. He is survived by his wife, Gerry; his daughters Laura Alvarado Coady (Bill), Linda Valente (Bill), and Julie Ann Alvarado Dubek (Rich); his brother Jim; and sisters Shirley, Margaret and Loretta. He leaves behind 10 grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.