Monday, February 7, 2011

Lon Doty, 1940-2011

A week ago, the management faculty at SJSU got an e-mail informing us of the death of Prof. Lon Doty. The details emerged from the loved ones as the week progressed: he had gone in for surgery on a Friday night, and on Saturday afternoon he took a nap, never to wake up.

The obit in the Mercury News said he left behind two sons, five grandchildren, a girlfriend and an "ex-wife and friend.” It also listed the two degrees — a BS from Northwestern and an MBA from Wisconsin — that were listed under his picture in the department directory of adjunct faculty.

His death came out of the blue for all of us. Many middle aged men let themselves go to pot, but Lon didn’t appear to be one of them. The obit said that he was a former Marine captain and Vietnam-era pilot. Four decades later, he certainly had the toughness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about Lon, even though he was in the office next door for a couple of years. Yes, he was gruff and taciturn, but mainly I was conforming to the caste system that separates us PhD-holding “permanent” faculty from the lowly lecturers.

Of our adjunct faculty, Lon was the one I most wanted to get to know. His rare comments suggested a hard-nosed pragmatism that academics often need to hear. (Apparently he brought that pragmatism to his role as a director of a Fremont-area homeless shelter.)

Now he’s gone, and I’ll never hear what he had to say, or the story of what he did in the decades before joining SJSU. Life is short, and some doors close when you least expect it.


Martin Phan said...

I had the pleasure of being in Doty's Oganinzation Theory, Design, and Change class during the Fall 2010 at SJSU. I admit, at first, I didn't find his class interesting because a lot the information presented was review and the man spoke in a militant, monotone, loud voice. It wasn't until the middle of the semester when he had us read Breaking Through the Barriers of Change did he capture my attention. The readings and lectures started to fuse together, I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. His exams were long and his grading was difficult. Nonetheless, I walked away with a B- and satified with the course. Rest in Peace Professor Doty ...

Joel West said...


Thanks for sharing your memories of Lon. It's rare that we feel we can make a difference for students, particularly in a large bureaucratic system like the CSU.

I'm glad Lon was able to communicate some key issues about org design and change, and hope it serves you well in your career.