Tom Tucker, assistant vice chancellor of student programs and facilities from 1983 to 2003, and an instrumental figure in the growth of UC San Diego, died Jan. 19. He was 71 years old. Tucker was deeply admired by both students and colleagues for his dedication, leadership and foresight which transformed student life at UC San Diego.
During his time on campus, Tucker instituted innovative student leadership programs and, most notably, guided the planning and construction of both Price Center and RIMAC Arena. Yet more importantly, he touched the lives of numerous students by encouraging them to realize their potential as leaders. In 2011, several UC San Diego alumni and former Associated Student (AS) leaders paid Tucker’s mentorship forward by establishing the Tom Tucker Endowed Scholarship to honor his legacy for future students.
Originally from West Virginia, Tucker relocated to southern California and in 1983 took on the role of assistant vice chancellor of student programs and facilities at UC San Diego—a title he would hold for nearly 20 years. Early in his career, the campus was fairly young and still developing a master plan to accommodate the growth of student enrollment. Tucker played a major role in making the ambitious concepts of Price Center and RIMAC Arena a reality. Gary Ratcliff, current assistant vice chancellor of student life, worked directly with Tucker on developing Price Center East in 2000. He recalls Tucker’s excitement in these two campus projects: “Facilities are always the things people remember. They’re visible markers of someone’s career.”
In 2011, in gratitude to Tucker’s guidance, David Marchick, Muir ’88, along with Marc Boroditsky, Revelle ’85; Mary Rose Alexander, Muir ’86; Greg Arnold, Revelle ’86; Paul Lanning, Marshall ’90; Joe Leventhal, Marshall ’99, and other alumni established the Tom Tucker Scholarship to honor their mentor. The scholarship is awarded to high-achieving students with financial need, who have academic, campus, or community leadership experience, with an emphasis on outstanding and exceptional contribution to student life.
Marchick, the former AS president who was the initial driving force behind the scholarship, notes the immense influence that Tucker had on him: “He was a mentor to a generation of student leaders and shaped our ability to write, to think, to make decisions, to lead and to be effective,” said Marchick. “He helped improve my confidence and competence when I was at UC San Diego. He got me interested and involved in leadership and government.” Marchick later went on to work in the Clinton Administration for seven years, including a stint as deputy assistant secretary of state.
Former AS presidents and members shared their own memories of Tucker:
Tommy was a terrific mentor and friend to so many UCSD students. He is the reason we now have the Price Center. He had the unique ability to bring together so many groups of people to make that happen. He really cared about the students. He will be sorely missed.—Mary Rose Alexander, Muir ’86
Tom Tucker was employed by the university, but worked for the students. He always understood and appreciated that UCSD’s role was to educate its students—both inside the classroom and out. He was instrumental in the move to Division II athletics, working with the student leaders to convince the other campus stakeholders that it was the right move for the university. He will be sorely missed, but his impact will forever be felt.—Joe Leventhal, Marshall ’99
Tommy Tucker was a force of nature that literally brought student life to the sleepy campus of UCSD. He did it with phenomenal energy, a big heart and a warm genuine smile for everyone he met.—Marc Boroditsky, Revelle ’85
Tommy was a great friend and mentor to so many of us active in AS and student organizations. He had a lasting impact on us all during a formative time in our lives and will be missed.—Greg Arnold, Revelle ’86
Tommy Tucker was my most cherished mentor when I was a young adult at UCSD, and he has served as an inspiration to me throughout my career. Not only did his work change the face of UCSD by bringing us the Price Center, RIMAC and so many other assets, but even more importantly he changed the lives of many, many students like me, inspiring us to think and dream and believe in our own abilities. Tommy’s influence and the opportunities he afforded when I was an undergraduate student in the 1980s had an indelible impact upon my life, and we remained in contact throughout the more than 25 years since I graduated. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, but his tremendous legacy will live on in the successes of each student who benefits from the Tom Tucker Scholarship and the amazing facilities Tommy helped create at UCSD.—Paul Lanning, Marshall ’90
Tom Tucker had a tremendous impact on the lives of both students and colleagues. He will be missed but his legacy lives on through the Tom Tucker Endowed Scholarship. To make a gift in his honor and learn more about the scholarship, click here.