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Chico State

Fond Farewell: Retired Sociology Professor Jerry Maneker

Stars shine above Trinity Hall.
Jason Halley/University Photogra

Professor Emeritus Jerry Maneker, who taught sociology on campus for 38 years, passed away May 8, 2019. He was 79.

Born April 12, 1940, in Bronx, New York, he grew up on Long Island and later graduated from Bronx Community and Nassau Community Colleges. Maneker went on to receive his master’s degree at Adelphi University and a PhD in sociology at New York University. He taught at the University of Maine for several years before he was hired at Chico State in 1970.

During his decades here, he served as chair of the Department of Sociology for eight years and also spent time as chair of the Academic Senate. Before retiring in 2008, he left a lasting impression on countless colleagues for his professional expertise, dedication to the University, and incredible compassion for others.

Portrait of Jerry Maneker
Jerry Maneker (Courtesy photo)

Professor Marianne Paiva said Maneker always had a kind smile and an even kinder word. She shared an office with him more than a decade ago when she was a new faculty member, and recalls they would sometimes hang out for hours chatting about the world, religion, and how to be a successful university academic.

“I was just a young whippersnapper getting my feet wet in this academic world. Jerry was at the end of his career after having spent 40 years teaching here,” she said. “I sought him out often for advice when my ethics were tried by politics and administration. His advice was always the same: ‘Follow your ethics! You don’t have anything if you don’t do what you think is right.’”

Former colleague Kathy Kaiser remembers that when she was a young faculty member in the department, Maneker was quick to look out for her professional career. Once he became chair, he supported her work and research, as well as her time coaching the women’s cross country and track and field teams. But even more resonant in her memory is how he treated other people.

“Jerry was fiercely protective of human rights, of respecting one another as individuals versus categories, and of seeking to help others in that regard,” she said.

Professor Liahna Gordon expressed similar admiration, describing Maneker as an evangelical Christian who was one of the biggest advocates for LGBTQ+ individuals on campus.

“He was fighting for trans-inclusive bathrooms on campus back when I got here in 2000, well before it was an issue that was on just about any other cis people’s radar. He learned Aramaic so that he could correctly translate Leviticus and show that the anti-homosexual reputation it had was actually a product of mistranslation,” she said. “And more than once I sent struggling queer youth who had very religious Christian families to him, and he was able to not only affirm for them that their orientation or acting on it wasn’t a sin, but to talk to the parents in their own religious language, and show them from their own Christian values why acceptance of their queer child was the only Christian thing to do.”

Maneker was an ordained pastor and always ready to help when needed, including inviting students to his home for meals. He also wrote many articles for The Valley Mirror, and authored four books and several journal articles with Robert Rankin. He retired in 2002.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Eileen Lichter, his brother, and two daughters.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 18, at Newton-Bracewell Funeral Home. A reception will follow. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Butte Humane Society or the Villalobos Rescue Center.

The University flag will be lowered on Thursday, May 16, in his honor.