In Memoriam

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David C. Newell ’62

Musically gifted and adept at mathematics, Dave earned a BA from Reed in mathematics. His thesis, written with Prof. Joe Roberts [1952–2014], was “Propositions Equivalent to the Axiom of Choice.” After graduating, Dave went to Brandeis University, where he earned a PhD in mathematics. He taught at Tufts College and then at UC Irvine, but his political leanings prevented him from receiving tenure. He also taught at California State University at Long Beach and West Los Angeles College, and retired in 2005. “Mostly I was a ‘freeway flyer,’” he wrote, “going from school to school each day, teaching a class here and there.” 

Described as a “gentle giant” for his stature—6 feet 7 inches—and his behind-the-scenes approach to issues, he was drawn into advocacy in the late ’70s, when he campaigned against the Briggs Initiative, a proposal to ban gays and lesbians from public school teaching positions. Distressed by the injustice, prejudice, and suffering he observed during the AIDS crisis, he became an active member of the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club and served as club president. A plaque recognizing his advocacy is mounted in Equality Plaza at Harvey Milk Promenade Park in Long Beach. His concern for those dealing with addiction led him to be a founding member of the Atlantic Alano Club, a 12-step meeting for LGBT people. He also was an active member of the California Democratic Party, at one point serving as regional director. “I am proud to say I was part of the transition of the city of Long Beach, being known as ‘Iowa by the Sea’ when I moved there, to the progressive and diverse city it is today.” Dave got involved in the U.S.–China Peoples Friendship Association, traveled twice to China, and was chair of a local chapter. He also traveled to Costa Rica, Egypt, South America, Southeast Asia, and the Panama Canal. At the time of his 50th-class reunion, though his health was of great concern, he looked ahead to a trip to Europe. “I do what I can, and I enjoy my books, CDs, and my subscriptions to the LA Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and to many chamber music series.” Survivors include two sisters, a niece, two grandnieces, and a grandnephew.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2015

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