Obituary: Dian Self was valued professor at American River College

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B

Dian E. Self, a historian and author who was a noted professor at American River College, died Oct. 13 of complications from systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder, her family said. She was 58.

Colleagues recalled Ms. Self as an "intellectual sponge" who enjoyed pursuing and sharing knowledge as a journalist, legislative consultant, researcher, writer and traveler. She began working as a summer reporter at the Galt Herald in 1973 and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Sacramento State.

In 1975, she went to the state Capitol as a press aide in the Office of Assembly Majority Consultants. Her strong work ethic led Assembly Speaker Leo T. McCarthy to hire her as a senior speechwriter, and she later was a senior consultant to various state Senate policy and investigative committees.

"She was very studious," said Joe R. Leonard, a retired top legislative communications specialist. "She could do a quick take and fast turnaround on anything."

Meanwhile, Ms. Self earned a master's degree in anthropology from California State University, Sacramento. She left the Capitol in the 1990s and began teaching at San Joaquin Delta College, American River College and Golden Gate University. She earned a second master's degree, in history, from Sacramento State in 1995.

She became a full-time professor at ARC in 1996 and was elected to the Academic Senate. In 2001, she was honored as ARC instructor of the year.

"She was somebody who threw herself into her classes as well as campus activities," ARC history professor Rudy Pearson said. "She was well-liked by her students, even though she held them to the highest academic standards."

In 1995, Ms. Self co-wrote with Elaine Connolly "Capital Women," a history of women in Sacramento. The book describes ordinary women – including teachers, servants, activists, painters and professionals – who helped shape civic life and civil rights, including women's right to vote.

"People aren't aware of the history," Ms. Self told The Bee in 1995. "Once people know, they're quite intrigued. But there's a distinct lack of knowledge about it."

Born in 1953 in Christian County, Ky., Dian Elizabeth Self spent her early years in Pagosa Springs, Colo., and moved with her family to the Galt area in 1968. She won many awards for academic excellence and was Galt High School valedictorian in 1972. She was managing editor of the Hornet newspaper and editor of Undercurrent magazine at Sacramento State.

In 2005, Ms. Self was chosen to fill a coveted job as American history professor at the University of London. She returned to ARC until illness led her to retire in 2008.

She traveled widely with her husband of 33 years, Douglas E. Chandler. She studied art, architecture, geology and other interests on trips to many European countries with ARC colleagues.

"She was a wealth of information about the places we went to," tour companion Barbara Harcos said. "I would always track her down and sit beside her on the train or wherever we were. She was a natural storyteller who made everything so interesting."

Dian E. Self

Born: Nov. 25, 1953

Died: Oct. 13, 2012

Survived by: Husband, Douglas E. Chandler of Sacramento; mother and stepfather, Alice and Frederick Sutherlin of Farmington, N.M.; brothers, Neal Self of Elk Grove, Carl Self of Galt, and Earl Self of Meridian, Miss.; sister, Karen Higashino of Elk Grove

Services: Memorial, 2 p.m. Oct. 26 at St. Francis Church, 1066 26th St., Sacramento

Remembrances: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Scleroderma Foundation–Northern California Chapter, P.O. Box 60313, Sacramento, CA 95860

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