Retired faculty member Kent Wooldridge, who taught computer science at Chico State for 30 years, passed away July 3, 2018. He was 76.
Born April 23, 1942, in Illinois, he demonstrated promise and passion for education at an early age, becoming valedictorian of Waukegan Township High School and earning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Chicago, where he graduated with his BS in 1964. After earning his master’s in education shortly thereafter, he taught high school until earning his PhD in mathematics from the University of Illinois in 1975.
Wooldridge began his higher education career teaching in the math and computer science programs at CSU, Stanislaus and worked there for six years. He came to Chico State on sabbatical in 1981 as a part-time lecturer but quickly became enamored with the program and was promoted to professor the following year. Joining the faculty when the University was expanding its degree offerings in computer science, he became the primary advisor in what was then a math-science option for computer science majors and the graduate coordinator for the computer science department.
Wooldridge was not only a great teacher and advisor, but also a wonderful friend and colleague, recalled Professor Emeritus Orlando Madrigal. His upbeat and positive personality was always appreciated, both by his colleagues and in the classroom.
“Kent was definitely admired by our students—very level headed and was a great listener,” he said.
Paul Villegas, director of the MESA Engineering Program, knew Wooldridge during his own years as an academic advisor in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management. He worked with many students who had Wooldridge for their introductory computer science course and said “they thought the world of him.”
“He was always so helpful, always on top of his materials, and he would bend over backwards to help students,” Villegas said.
He credits Wooldridge for the high volume of students that graduated and went straight into the technology industry during the relative infancy of computer science. He also says Wooldridge was a pioneer in leading Chico State into the latest programming languages before other early adopters, making sure students would be marketable by staying connected with his field.
After Wooldridge retired in July 2001, he immediately volunteered his time as a tutor in the mathematics department, said professor emerita and former computer science department chair Anne Keuneke. She described him as a “true believer in the beauty and discipline of science” and said his devotion to mathematics was matched only by his love of his friends and family.
He also enjoyed traveling, including walking tours of England and attending Spring Training to relish in his other passion—baseball. He volunteered with numerous organizations and as a middle school and high school math tutor. He loved animals, literature, and music, and often left long, complicated math problems scattered on scraps of paper around the house.
He is survived by his daughter, Elisabeth; son, Dan; grandsons Liam and Luca; and sisters Tracy and Susanne. A memorial will be held on August 25 at 4 p.m. at the Valley Oaks Village Community Center, 1950 Wild Oak Lane off Forest Avenue in Chico.
The University flag will be lowered Tuesday, August 7, in his honor.