Dian Elizabeth Self, a noted Sacramento author, historian and popular professor at American River College, died Saturday, October 13 of complications from systemic sclerosis, a rare autoimmune disorder. She was 58. Born in Christian County, KY on November 25, 1953, Self spent her early years in Pagosa Springs, CO, before the family moved to the Galt area in 1968, where she quickly demonstrated her skills as an outstanding scholar.
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Dian attended Galt High School, where she was class valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar. Don Nottoli, long-time friend and Chairman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, recalled serving with Dian on the Galt High Student Council: "When she graduated from our high school in 1972, she made a clean sweep of all the scholarship awards for excellence in every academic category. This distinction was unprecedented. She even received the Betty Crocker Homemaker-of-the Year Award. Dian was also named a Governor's scholar by then-Governor Ronald Reagan."
She then attended Sacramento State University, where she obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, served as managing editor of Hornet and Editor of the student magazine, Undercurrent.
Self began a career in journalism, serving as summer editor of the Galt Herald in 1973, but found a broader market for her writing, research and communications skills in the California Legislature.
Beginning in 1975, she spent 13 years at the State Capitol, first as a press aide in the Office of Assembly Majority Consultants, then as Senior Speechwriter to Assembly Speaker Leo T. McCarthy, and as senior consultant to various California Senate legislative policy and investigative committees.
Along the way, however, Dian felt a yearning to return to academia, and in the late 1980s she succumbed to the urge.
By the time she decided to pursue academic interests, she was widely admired by legislators and staff experts alike. "We all recognized her unequaled work ethic and superb talents," according to Joe R. Leonard, the top legislative communications specialist who first hired Self to the Assembly media position.
While still working part-time on special projects for the California Senate, Self returned to Sacramento State, and in 1989 obtained a Master's Degree in Anthropology. In 1995, she obtained a second Master's Degree in History.
In the early 1990s, Dian began teaching Cultural and Physical Anthropology, the History of Women and Ethnic Minorities as an instructor at San Joaquin Delta College, American River College and Golden Gate University.
In 1995, Self co-authored with Elaine Connolly Capitol Women: An Interpretive History of Women in Sacramento, 1850-1920, published by the Capital Women's History Project.
In 1996, Dian Self became a full-time Professor of History at American River College (ARC). Within 3 years, all the professors within the ARC Department of History elected her to the Academic Senate. In 2001 Professor Self was named instructor of the year, in recognition of her outstanding performance in the academic American River College teaching community.
In 2005, when there was an unexpected opening for a professor of American History at the University of London, Dian Self was selected from scores of applicants throughout the entire system of California Community Colleges. Dian then continued her passion for travel across Europe and Asia with her husband Doug and fellow colleagues.
In 2008, Professor Self retired from her teaching responsibilities due to complications of a rare systemic sclerosis affliction that eventually took her life.
Self is the daughter of the late Ivan James Self, of Galt, and Alice Barnett Self Sutherlin and the loving stepdaughter of Frederick D. Sutherlin, both of Farmington, NM. Both her late father Ivan and her mother Alice were born in their homes in La Plata County, Colorado. She is also survived by her husband, Douglas E. Chandler, of Sacramento, brothers Neal James Self, of Elk Grove; Carl Ivan Self, of Galt; Earl Ben Self, of Meridian, MS; and her sister Karen Fay Higashino, of Elk Grove.
Among her many personal and professional activities, Dian served as a docent at Crocker Art Museum and a judge at the National Bicentennial Competition on the Constitution and Bill of Rights (high school students), 1989-1991. She was a member of the following organizations: Sacramento Anthropological Society, Sacramento County Historical Society, Lambda Alpha, National Anthropology Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honor Society, Sacramento History Center, Mystery Writers of America, National Women's History Project, and the Scleroderma Foundation, Northern California Chapter.
Memorial services will be held Friday, October 26, at 2 p.m. at St. Francis Church, 26th and K streets, in Sacramento. A reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, Dian requested that friends donate to the Scleroderma Foundation-Northern California Chapter, P.O. Box 60313, Sacramento, CA 95860.
Published in Lodi News-Sentinel from October 25 to October 31, 2012
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