Rita Deutsch, Longtime Associate Dean of Students in the College of Arts & Sciences, Passes Away at Age 83

Deutsch’s Mark on the Thousands of Students She Guided and People She Mentored Will be Remembered by Future Generations

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 5, 2015) — Rita Deutsch, longtime associate dean of student academic services in the University of Miami (UM) College of Arts & Sciences, leaves a legacy of service excellence and women’s rights at the University. She passed away on Tuesday, August 4 at 9:05 a.m. after an illness. She was 83.

Deutsch’s association with the University began in 1969, when she returned to school to complete an English major and pursue graduate work in the College of Arts & Sciences English Department. In 1980, she began teaching courses through the Department of English, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Judaic Studies, and American Studies Program. In 1985, Deutsch joined the Dean’s Office as director of freshman advising in the Office of Student Academic Services, where she served tirelessly as Associate Dean of Students, a vital administrative role from which she helped countless students navigate successful academic careers at the University. Among her career accomplishments was her role on the steering committee of the Foote Fellows program at its inception in 2002, where she proudly graduated three classes of Foote Fellows before her retirement in 2013. 

Deutsch earned numerous prestigious awards for her distinguished service and commitment to education, including the inaugural award named in her honor: the Rita Deutsch Spirit of Excellence Award.

“Rita touched so many lives of students, faculty, and staff that the whole community is saddened by her passing. She set incredible standards for service, compassion, and energy; her example will continue to guide us in the future,” said Dr. Maria Stampino, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Deutsch was also a passionate political activist for women’s rights; her efforts made an impact on the equality of women on campus. She joined the National Organization for Women in the 1970s and was a three-time past president of the UM Women’s Commission.  She was also a great friend and mentor to many faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, deeply committed to the study of feminism and theories of gender and sexuality.

As dean, Deutsch could always be found working long hours in her second floor office at the Ashe Building, helping students and faculty. However, she sometimes ventured away from her labors and could be seen on her way to kick-boxing lessons at UM’s Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center. In her spare time, Deutsch loved to listen to classical music, the American songbook and Broadway musicals. Her dream to become a Radio City Hall Rockette was never realized, but she performed in many Ring Theatre shows.

Deutsch will be remembered with love by her husband Leonard of 61 years, her children Phyllis, Jo (Teresa Williams) and Steven, three grandchildren, and countless colleagues, students, and friends whose lives were enriched by her wit, intelligence, and compassion.

“As for Rita herself, we are convinced she is doing a high kick in the chorus line upstairs,” her family noted in her obituary. A full version of her obituary can be read online.

A video in her tribute is also available online.

Funeral services will be held 10:30 a.m. Thursday, August 6 at Riverside-Gordon Memorial Chapel, 5900 SW 77 Avenue, Miami FL. 33143. There will be a reception there following the service and an open house until 8 p.m. (following the reception) at the Deutschs’, 7971 SW 89 Street, Miami.

The burial will be at Mt. Nebo Cemetery/Kendall, 5900 SW 77 Avenue. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Teton Botanical Garden, Jackson, Wyoming; The National Women's History Museum, Washington, D.C., or a charity of your choice.

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August 05, 2015