Ralph Cicerone

Ralph J. Cicerone, fourth chancellor of the University of California, Irvine and internationally acclaimed atmospheric chemist, died Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. He was 73.

Cicerone’s research helped shape environmental policy at the highest levels nationally and globally. As chancellor of UCI from 1998 to 2005, he oversaw a rapid rise in its academic capabilities as well as the construction of major research halls and the $375 million teaching hospital at UC Irvine Medical Center. Cicerone left UCI after being elected president of the National Academy of Sciences, where he wielded international clout on scientific issues until his retirement in 2016.

“For his powerful and profound work as a chemist and Earth system scientist, and for his recognized stature in his discipline, we in academia salute Ralph Cicerone,” said UCI’s sixth and current chancellor, Howard Gillman. “For his courageous work uncovering the causes and effects of climate change, the world owes him a debt of gratitude. And from UCI, we offer Ralph our own special thanks for his extraordinary contributions to the global preeminence of this institution.”

Cicerone arrived at UCI in 1989 and was founding chair of the Department of Earth System Science, which has grown to international prominence, and dean of the School of Physical Sciences.

“Ralph played a central role in moving the School of Physical Sciences and UCI to a premier position as a top research university,” said Kenneth C. Janda, current physical sciences dean. “His design for the Earth system science department was unique and well ahead of its time, bringing together top scientists from engineering, physics and chemistry to study a problem of crucial importance to humanity: climate change. Ralph was a leader in gender equity too, and he demonstrated to the world that a department with a significant number of female faculty members could rise to the top in national and international rankings and prestige. He was also known for his great humility and kindness to others, from the most distinguished scientists to our students.”

During his tenure as a researcher, Cicerone received the prestigious Bower Award & Prize for Achievement in Science from the Franklin Institute and was recognized on the citation for the Nobel Prize in chemistry won by colleague F. Sherwood Rowland in 1995. He frequently provided expert testimony about climate change policy to congressional committees.

Cicerone once said of his research experience: “I learned a lot about the impact of research and how people do it at universities. But at the same time, I learned some practical things, like what are the rules of the federal agencies.” He shared his expertise, advising younger faculty on how to apply for national grants.

As chancellor, Cicerone used his fundraising acumen to dramatically increase private giving to UCI. He understood that a university must do more than great research; it must offer on-campus activities to attract the best students and donors. Accordingly, Cicerone helped revive UCI’s baseball program, and Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark is named in his honor.

He lent his expertise and knowledge to the campus again in January 2016, when he joined a panel of higher education luminaries at an academic symposium celebrating UCI’s 50th anniversary. Cicerone called access to a university education a basic American value.

“What makes it so wonderful to live here and attracts so many people to live here – and many, many more who wish they could come – is the premise that in the United States, [the course of]one’s individual life is not based on how he or she was born – as a member of royalty or due to that person’s religion or political influence,” he said. “Instead, the fundamental premise is that every individual should have opportunity, and with that opportunity and determination and goals and capability, we can achieve virtually anything. The biggest enabler of all is higher education.”

Cicerone earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Early in his career, he was a research scientist and faculty member at the University of Michigan and a research chemist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. From 1980 to 1989, Cicerone was a senior scientist and director of the atmospheric chemistry division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

He is survived by his wife, Carol, a UCI professor emerita of cognitive sciences; daughter, Sara Cicerone; and twin grandchildren, Zoe and Ari.


UCI will host a Celebration of Life event for Dr. Ralph Cicerone on February 24, 2017. This event is open to all. The Cicerone family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to the Ralph J. and Carol M. Cicerone Endowed Chair and Fellowship Fund

Leave tributes and condolences for the Cicerone family below. 

Remembrances

From: 
Andrew McMillan
Relationship: 
ESS graduate student alumni

Dear Earth System Science Department and Cicerone Family, 

I wanted to convey my condolences to all of you. Nineteen years ago on a Friday Morning during the El Nino of 1997, I first sat down with the Cicerone/Tyler research group in Roland Hall at UC Irvine and heard him quietly and incisively listened to him counsel his graduate students and post-docs. What I learned over the years from this softly-spoken giant of a scientist: the importance of exactness - his fastidiousness with the minutiae gave the robustness of the sweeping insights he made into our Earth System; how an immaculate clarity of thought can a precursor for creativity – his moments of brilliance resembled flames leaping above meticulously stacked kindling – and finally, of the utmost need for a scientist to tell a cogent and compelling story. I was privileged to start my career as part of this joint research group and I am forever grateful to the Department Earth System Science that he founded for bringing me into their fold. We will miss you greatly, Dr Cicerone.

Wishing all of you at ESS and his family kind thoughts in this sad time,

Andrew McMillan

From: 
Ken Janda
Relationship: 
Friend and Colleague

What always amazed me about Ralph was his essential humanity. Throughout his years at UC Irvine he was kind to us all, regardless of rank. As one of my colleagues has said, he was the people's chancellor. We all remember that he would pick up trash, come to the cafeteria and eat with faculty, staff and students, and talk about what was important to us. At the same time, it was clear that we were in the presence of a great man, who influenced the course of history in ways that most of us could only dream about. Ralph, we miss you dearly. Carol, you were a pillar of strength during Ralph's life, and we also hold you near and dear to our hearts. 

From: 
Zhiqin Lu
Relationship: 
Faculty member

A great man, and a great leader. R.I.P.

From: 
Darryl Taylor
Relationship: 
Faculty member

Carol, I'm deeply sorry to hear of Ralph's passing. I will always hold dear the warmth with which you and he welcomed me as a new faculty member. Please know that you are held in my prayers. 

Darryl Taylor 

From: 
Mary Watson-Bruce
Relationship: 
Retiree, Wife of Late Faculty Member Dickson (Dave) Bruce

Carol and Sara,

Please accept my most sincere condolences on Ralph's death.  He contributed much to UC Irvine and to science. But, I will remember him most as a tireless cheerleader for UCI and its family. His enthusiasm for this place was phenomenal. He will always be in our hearts.

From: 
Toni and Larry Kramer
Relationship: 
Friends from Ann Arbor

Dear Carol,

We were stunned and sorry to see notice of Ralph's death. You and Sara and your grandchildren have our deepest sympathy. The memory of his intelligence and humor has remained with us all these years since his time at Michigan.

From: 
Isabella Velicogna
Relationship: 
colleague

I have been one of the lucky ones who knew Ralph, he was a great supporter of the GRACE mission and, thanks to this, since I joined UCI I have been in constant contact with him as he was always interested in the latest updates on the mass balance of the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets and on the mission status. He always had very sharp questions about the data and different changes we were observing in Greenland and Antarctica.
Ralph was an amazing scientist and an extraordinary human being. He had a way to communicate with people with the same kindness and listening skills, whether they were simple students or the latest Nobel prize in Chemistry, he always made people feel comfortable. These are traits of greatness to me.
He gave so much to the scientific community and to the people around him. He touched a lot of people. I learned a lot from him, not just in terms of science, but also in terms of humanity. I am sure all the people who knew him felt the same way.

From: 
Frank Carsey
Relationship: 
Colleague

In the early 1970s many scientists became engaged grappling with understanding Earth's planetary boundary layer. I was a young postdoc moving from physics into Earth science and Ralph was a leader in atmospheric sciences but he shared his curiosity and expertise and conducted discussion sessions at AMS meetings so that everyone felt valuable. He was the sort of person who remembered your name and was pleased to see you even if you were not an established player. I hope science is still producing people like Ralph. He will be missed.

From: 
Joseph Steed
Relationship: 
colleague

I'm very sorry to hear of Ralph's passing. As an atmospheric chemist in the '80s, I learned from his research, occasionally argued with him about its implications, and was ultimately fortunate to be able to help him and so many others achieve global action on CFCs. Ralph's statesmanship set him apart from so many others during those years, and I've always been proud to say I knew him. It was great to renew our acquaintance a couple of years ago. We've lost a great one, and I'll miss him. I offer my condolences to Carol and the family.

From: 
Jérôme Chappellaz
Relationship: 
Senior scientist at CNRS, France, strongly influenced by Ralph's articles

Ralph was such a big name in our field. When I was a PhD student in the 80s, working on the reconstruction of the past atmospheric composition using ice cores, Ralph's papers in atmospheric chemistry were on top of my reading pile. His passing-away is really a sad news for our community.

From: 
James Nowick
Relationship: 
Faculty member

Dear Carol, 

Please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of your beloved husband, Ralph. He was an incredible person, colleague, and leader, and I will miss him deeply. Form my start at UCI onward, he was always very kind and supportive to me. I admired him not only for his leadership, but also for his genuine love of the campus. His picking up trash as he walked across the campus inspired me to do the same. (If the Chancellor cares enough to bend over and pick up a candy wrapper, then the faculty should too!) He was a good man who died too young. For this I am very sad. My thoughts will be with you.

From: 
Tibisay Perez
Relationship: 
ESS Graduate Student Alumni

I was part of the recently established Department of Geosciences (later became the Earth System Science Department) at the University of California Irvine back in 1993. I was given the opportunity to enroll the Department´s first class as a graduate student under the supervision of Susan Trumbore. It was my first time traveling abroad from Venezuela. I remember when I spoke to Dr. Ralph Cicerone for the first time, he was a very calmed person and with a great enthusiasm started speaking to me about the Department's research interest and about the classes I should take to accomplish my research goals. One thing I recall he said is that this new Department had the idea of producing knowledge with an integrated view of the Earth as a system. For a young chemist back then I thought it was very novel idea and I was very pleased to join. Today, looking back in retrospect I see the dimension of that novel idea and tears of gratitude and sadness for such an early loss overwhelms me. In 1993 I was a young woman from the developing world who this Department under the leadership of Ralph Cicerone and the great faculty that was recruited gave me the opportunity to join. I remember his kindness, brilliance and determination to enhance Earth System Science Research. He took the time to listen to all the students’ academic questions at group meeting and I learned from his insightful comments, as my professor in the Atmospheric Chemistry course and as part of my dissertation committee. This Department was also committed to encourage the enrollment of women in science, and lots of us were part of that. Those visions, the outstanding job as a Dean of the Physical Sciences School and then as a Chancellor of UCI to finally moving forward to become the President of the National Academy of Sciences simply show the extraordinary person we all grieve today. He was a brilliant scientist, with a devote mission to enhance scientific knowledge but aiming to enhance effective solutions related to the environmental crisis our civilization is under. I wish I could had said to him these thoughts, I wish Carol, Sara and the entire family to recover. All my thoughts and empathy are with them. Dr. Cicerone thanks for everything.

From: 
Ivar and Mette isaksen
Relationship: 
Friends and colleague.

Dear Carol and Sara and the children,
Ivar and I have wonderful memories through many years from Boulder to Irvine, specially through the years we had the privelege to come to California. Ivar I know had very high thoughts of Ralph through science. We are deeply sorry for your loss.
Thinking about you,
Camilla, Christian, Ivar and Mette

From: 
William Lillyman
Relationship: 
Ralph asked me to return as Executive Vice Chancellor and I worked with him 1998-2000

Dear Carol,

Ingeborg and I are deeply saddened by Ralph's passing. Working with him, and with you, as EVC was for me a high point in my academic and administrative career. Of the three chancellors of UCI with whom I worked he was the one who thoroughly understood the nature and demands of a Research University. We send you our heartfelt condolences.

From: 
Eric Rignot
Relationship: 
Faculty member

Dear Carol and family,

I feel blessed to have the chance to know Ralph. He was one of the giants in the field but mostly a very kind, approachable, soft-spoken person who really cared deeply about science and people. The first time I met him was at a late hour at UCI. I joined in 2007 as a Professor, sort of lucky to fill a spot he had left open in the department, and he showed up at my door. I was very honored to meet him. He told me how much he loved the department, how much he enjoyed his years at UCI, almost like a home. Then he went on to tell me he was actually looking for Isabella to talk about GRACE. Cute. He cared genuinely about the mission. He had a twinkle in his eyes when he was talking about it, and he really wanted to hear the latest about it by the people working on the data. 

I met Ralph on many occasions after that, at the baseball field (where he knew all the players by first name) or at Academy in Irvine or DC (he would always take the time to say hi). Ralph was always animated with passion, positiveness, and a clear interest to listen to others. He would also have this inner hability to make you feel comfortable, whomever you were, and appreciated. A people person. It was always a humbling experience to see him. I think he made a lot of us becoming not only better scientists but also better people. 

From: 
Gregory Weiss
Relationship: 
friend and colleague

Dear Carol and Family,   

What a tremendous loss!  I'm so sorry.  Ralph was just a terrific guy, and I share your sorrow at his passing.

Though he was Chancellor at UCI when I started as an Assistant Professor, Ralph always made time to chat.  He particularly relished talking about science, his experiments with methane generaiton in rice or even my less earth-shattering results.  He was an unusually thoughtful individual, and a model of excellence and integrity.  

He cared about the details.  No one working in Physical Sciences during his time as Chancellor can forget seeing him stumbling around in the bushes in pursuit of trash.  I still pick up trash as I walk through campus.  Initially, I was inspired by him, but now it's my daily tribute and memorial to his vision and care.

I missed Ralph and Carole when they left UCI for DC.  Carole, you're still missed at UCI!  But I miss Ralph even more now, knowing that I'll never be able to watch his grace moving among titans at international meetings.  He made everyone feel special.  His passing is a loss to all who knew him and the entire scientific community.

With condolences,

-Greg

From: 
Ellen Druffel
Relationship: 
faculty member and friend

Ralph was a gentle giant. He was detail oriented, but at the same time was a global thinker who influenced major scientific and environmental directions. 

Ralph had many endearing qualities.   One was his love of children.  When my family had first moved to Irvine, Ralph would engage my son, Kevin, who was then 8 years old, in conversation during his many visits to mom’s office.  During one of these conversations, Ralph found out that Kevin loved the cartoon character Doug.  Upon finding this out, Ralph went home and picked out one of the Doug watches he had obtained from redeeming numerous Life cereal box tops, and brought it to Kevin the next weekend.  He was ecstatic.  And his mom was pretty impressed, too.

A story that is dear to my heart happened one Christmas when ESS members were collecting presents for a local family for the holidays.  Ralph bought a bicycle for one of the children and stayed up most of the night assembling it. He said that he had always wanted a new bicycle as a child, but never received one. He wanted the boy to have a new bike for Christmas.  Ralph insisted that his gift be anonymous, even to us in ESS. This is the type of person Ralph Cicerone was, deeply caring and genuine.

Ralph brought out the best in people.  At the University Club party celebrating his becoming Chancellor, Jorge Meyer cast a glass catcher's mitt for Ralph, knowing his love of baseball (Go Cubs!).  Hal Moore had a squirting flower on his lapel that he used to douse Ralph with on stage.  And Ralph’s penchant for picking up trash was the subject of a short power point presentation that showed the dramatic reduction of litter on the Physical Sciences quad since Ralph had moved to UCI in 1989.

Ralph worked deeply to bring about positive change at UCI, AGU and the National Academy of Sciences. He worked to increase the numbers of women faculty at UCI, and representation of women among AGU Fellows and medal winners.

Ralph brought an incredible amount of class to UCI. He influenced so many of our lives.  He was a wonderful friend.  He will live in us for a very long time. Carol and Sara, we share your loss and send you our love and prayers.

From: 
Murat Aydin
Relationship: 
ESS research faculty

Ralph has contributed so much to our department and the UCI community. Even after he became the chancellor, he would always make time for his lab and research. Brilliant scientist who has always remained very accessible. Rest in peace. You will be missed.

From: 
Steven Allison
Relationship: 
Faculty member

I never actually had the chance to meet Ralph in person, but I know how much he has contributed to our campus and ESS department in so many tremendous ways. His leadership is undoubtably one of the main reasons not only for our success as a campus, but also for the wonderful academic environment and truly amazing colleagues here. It is truly an honor to be a part of his legacy.

From: 
Chia-Chi Wang
Relationship: 
ESS Graduate Student Alumni

I feel so sad to hear this news.  I saw Prof. Cicerone all the time when I studied in ESS UCI as a graduate student.  It is a great program and he was always very kind to every student.  Thanks for all his contributions to the department and to science. 

From: 
Sergey Nizkorodov
Relationship: 
faculty member

I am deeply saddened by the news. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was my idol, both as a scientist and as a person. I was especially impressed by his ability to remember people after meeting them even briefly, which a great quality in a true leader. I admired the way he talked about science to a broad spectrum of people. He had a transformative impact on our UCI campus, and his legacy will live on.

From: 
Claudia Czimczik
Relationship: 
faculty member

Ralph will be missed dearly. By reminding us to leave our egos at the door to meetings, he continues to inspire us to create space for sharing knowledge across interdisciplinary boundaries and where everyone participates to produce the best science for a sustainable future.

From: 
Tammy Smecker-Hane
Relationship: 
UCI Faculty

Ralph was an amazing dean and such a wonderful mentor. When my graduate student, Tammy Bosler, graduated and won a National Academy of Science fellowship, he was a wonderfully welcoming and supportive of her. My heartfelt condolences go out to all his family members for their loss.

From: 
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Relationship: 
Colleagues

We are deeply saddened by the news of Ralph Cicerone´s passing. Ralph was a dear friend of our institute. He was a brilliant scientist and inspired the science community in leading positions. Our heartfelt condolences go to his family, friends and colleagues.

Sincerely,

The board of directors of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry

From: 
Reg Penner & Theresa McIntire
Relationship: 
Friends and colleagues

Dear Carol and Family,   

Since receiving this sad and unexpected news, Theresa and I have been thinking back on his time here, with you, at UCI.  His warmth and friendliness towards us, and everyone else, was genuine, as was the interest he could always convey in whatever we were doing.  He WAS important, and he had the ability to make you feel important too.  Theresa and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to know Ralph, and to count him as a friend.  

From: 
Clare Yu
Relationship: 
faculty member

Dear Carol and Sara,

So sorry to hear about Ralph. He will be greatly missed. I had so much respect for him. He was a man of integrity, wisdom and compassion. He knew the importance of having fun. And he understood people. I first got to know Ralph when I was an assistant professor. I was on a campuswide search committee that he chaired. I just remember marvelling at how skillfully he ran the committee. (I can assure you that I haven't been in such awe of a committee chair before or since.)

When he was Dean of Physical Sciences, I remember showing him a proposal that someone else had written. He immediately started to spot all the typos which I had never noticed before. I was amazed by his attention to detail. 

I seem to recall that as Dean, he wanted the fountain outside Physical Sciences to run but his requests seemed to no avail. However, as soon as he was named Chancellor, maintenance men drove up and quickly got the fountain working. In fact, when we celebrated Ralph's appointment as Chancellor, Hal Moore presented Ralph with a replica of the fountain, complete with running water.

I know this must be a difficult time for you. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.  

From: 
Barbara Finlayson-Pitts
Relationship: 
Colleague in the field

What a tremendous loss to the field of atmospheric chemistry, to science and to the U.S. and world at large!  His leadership here and then at NAS were absolutely the right person at the right time.  Our field has a large representation of women and other traditionally underrepresented groups in science which can be traced in large part to his influence and quiet, but effective, actions.  NAS just released a report on the future of atmospheric chemistry research, the previous such report being in 1984 from a committee co-chaired by Ralph.  We know he followed the current report development with great interest.  It was bittersweet that we could at least dedicate this current report to him:

We dedicate this report to the memory of Ralph J. Cicerone in great appreciation for his unique and creative contributions to atmospheric chemistry over many decades, and his leadership in both this field and in the advancement of science broadly writ for the public good.

The Committee on the Future of Atmospheric Chemistry Research

His wisdom and quietly effective approach to so many things is already deeply missed.

From: 
Ron and Shari Stern
Relationship: 
fellow faculty and friend

Ralph was simply the best at being a thoughtful and caring human, a visionary and influential scientist and administrator, and an effective international leader. A loss for us all.

From: 
Mohan Gupta
Relationship: 
Student

Dear Carol and Family:

 

Hearing about Ralph was very shocking that cannot be expressed in simple words. Last week, I was in Athens (Greece) to attend a meeting on Aviation when I started getting Google Alerts on Ralph. I closely followed Ralph since I left UCI. Therefore, I set up a google alert on him.

 

I got so many alerts that I could not believe and understand about the message on my IPhone. Header of one email from the NAS said ‘Sad News’ and that was the time when I came to know about Ralph and that news did not sink in my head (and still it is the case). I met Ralph just before he left the NAS and we talked about his move to NJ etc.

 

I had very close association with Ralph since the foundation of the UCI Department of Geosciences. We were just three in that Department in early days – Ralph, Janet and myself. Afterwards, Department moved with recruitment of faculties one by one making it one of the most largest and most recognized Earth System Science department in the World and now rest is the history in the making. In fact, I was the Ralph’s and ESS first Ph.D. student and graduated in 1996. Ralph was the greatest mentor that I ever met till date- with the simple language he explained the toughest concept of Atmospheric Science and Climate Change. He allowed the academic freedom and pursue the research that a Ph.D. student always dreams of. We together worked on so many novel research ideas. In fact, I always sought his insight until the time when I met him the last time in-person. I continue to follow his guidance.

 

With a close association of more than 26 years, we developed the close bonding. I and my wife (Deepa) could not believe that Ralph is no more. In fact, just before I married Deepa (while she was still in India), Ralph suggested me an idea of getting in touch with Prof. Sudhir Gupta at UCI Medical School for continuation of my wife’s Ph.D. which Deepa indeed followed and completed her Ph.D. under Prof. Gupta. In other words, Ralph guided two Ph.D.s in our family.

 

Ralph will be deeply missed not only as the mentor but also as one of the best colleagues.

 

Mohan Gupta and Sudeepta Aggarwal

From: 
Dieter and Inge Ehhalt
Relationship: 
friends and colleague

Dear Carol,

We are deeply saddened to hear of Ralph's death. We will always remember his warm and considerate personality, his quiet sense of humor and, of course, his and your kind hospitality we were privileged to enjoy for so many years. As a colleague I will miss Ralph's balanced judgement, his broad vision and his soft-spoken, but persistent and efficient leadership.

Our thoughts are with you and your family. Please accept our heartfelt condolences.

Inge and Dieter

From: 
Jeri Ooka
Relationship: 
other

Aloha Carol,

Please accept my condolences on the passing of your husband Ralph.

Me kealoha pumehana,

Jeri

From: 
Frederic Wan
Relationship: 
faculty member and friends

Dear Carol,

Julia and I are deeply sadden by the news of Ralph's passing.  We certainly will miss him after many years of association.  While he may no longer be with us, his legacy will be long remembered and his warm friendship will be forever cherished.

Our thoughts are with you and your family.

Fred Wan

From: 
Joe DiMento

 Ralph and Carol  brought  to UCI a  continuing focus on excellence.   One of the high points of my career was the opportunity to work with both of them.

 

May the memories of Ralph's full and varied life bring comfort to the family.

From: 
Newyork
Relationship: 
Student

A great man and a legend thought me all I know. and gave me the foundation to build a good career, I remember back in the day. am now at Peking University in china.Studying in china and gaining even more like he alway thought me. I will miss you and I will always remember that smile.

Post Remembrance

Please note that your email will not be published.
(Family member, friend, faculty member, staff member, student, colleague/peer, acquaintance, fan, other)

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Please note that comments will not post automatically, they will be approved and posted within 24 hours.