Alexander Deconde

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Professor  of History, Emeritus, University of California, Santa Barbara, died at his home at 1076 Vereda del Ciervo, Goleta in the pre-dawn hours  of May 28, 2016 following some years of steadily declining health. He was  95. At his side was his wife, Glace (Baeza) DeConde as she had always been throughout his illness and indeed throughout their marriage. Four days before he died, they had their 43rd wedding anniversary.

Alex, as he was familiarly called, rose from rather humble beginnings to prominence in the field of US diplomatic history and politics. He achieved this through his natural talents, hard work and  perseverance. Born in Utica, New York on November 13, 1920,  he was the  firstborn child of  Mary Teresa Tofani and Angelo DeConde, both of  Italian heritage. When barely a toddler, his mother and grandmother moved to  the Bay Area in California taking him and his younger sibling, Elena, and finally settling in San Francisco. Hardly remembering his father, Alex would meet him  in 1971(?) when he was already a  professor at UCSB at a hospital in New York shortly before his death. Alex had just published a book  Half-Bitter, Half-Sweet, (1971) of which it was written "no comparable objective examination of the evidence and the facts of Italo-American relations has ever been attempted in the English language."  The book and the author's name  struck a chord with Angelo and he wrote Alex requesting to meet. Opportunely enough, Alex was scheduled to be NY to promote the book for Scribner's, his publisher, and while there, took the time to honor a dying man's request. So did father and son meet as if for the first time and, as it  was to be, for the last time.

To help support the family, Alex worked at various jobs while going to school including selling shoes and pumping gas. He was also a caddy which most likely fostered his love for the  sport of tennis. He would play it throughout his adult life for exercise and relaxation and would become a good enough player to win some  local doubles tournaments. He would play until he could no longer do so because of a knee injury while playing tennis at the Las Positas Tennis Court. He would have surgery but  the knee would not be the same and he would take to walking.

In 1943, he received  his AB degree at San Francisco State College. When the war broke out, he enlisted in the Navy and served as a Line Officer aboard the USS Whitney which was stationed in Pacific waters from 1943-47. Following his honorable discharge, he resumed his studies with the help of his GI Bill. He obtained his MA in 1947 and two years later his PhD. at Stanford University. There, he began his teaching career as an instructor for a year, then on to Whittier College. Thereafter, he taught at some of the finer universities in the country including Duke University in North Carolina, University of Michigan, and finally at the University California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) from 1961-91. At UCSB, he spearheaded a major buildup of faculty in the years that he was Chairman of the History Department from 1964-67. He was also elected Faculty Research Lecturer in 1967 which was a recognition of scholarly accomplishment by his peers. 

Other academic honors included two Guggenheim Fellowships, Fulbright Award (Italy), and Vice-President, then President of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association. He also received the 1988 Norman and Laura Graebner Lifetime Achievement Award of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR). Only the second person to ever receive the award, he was cited for "the eoriginality and quality of his many publications, the number and success of his kmstudents in the field and the fact that he was one of the organizers and second president of  SHAFR." He was in several editorial and advisory boards of historical organizations and publications. He also traveled extensively to England, Continental Europe, and Asia for lectures and research. It was during such a lecture tour (Fulbright-Hays, Department of State Inter-Country Lecturer, 1971) that he met Glace at a 5-day seminar on South Vietnam in Tagaytay, Philippines, the last stop of the tour. They corresponded for almost  two years. He later returned to Manila and met with her family. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Alex published some 20 books with academic and trade presses. Aside from Half-Bitter, Half-Sweet,  he also authored  Herbert Hoover's Latin American Policy, Entangling Alliance: Politics and Policy Under George Washington, The American Secretary of State, the first and only study of the secretaryship, The Quasi-War: The  Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War  with France, 1797-18 01,  A History of American Foreign Policy (a textbook), and This Affair of Louisiana. Other books included Presidential Machismo, Gun Violence in America: The Struggle for Control, and the Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy ( 3 vols., second edition) of which he was senior editor and contributor. He was working to publish a manuscript about George Bush and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when deteriorating health intervened.

Alex was as decent a human being as anyone could hope  to be. Although his circumstances had appreciably improved, he remained a simple and humble man. He lived his life with as much integrity as he could and strove to be non-judgemental and fair minded with everyone and in all his dealings. He loved his wife, his family, art, classical music, opera, and nature. He enjoyed hearing from his former graduate students and learning their progress in their work and life.

Aside from Glace, he is survived by four sons from a first marriage to Jeanne Doris Siegel Stoner (deceased): Alexander Christopher, Keith Thomas (wife -  Sally, Curran), Kenneth Paul ( wife - Lauren Godwin), and Stephen Fredrick;  grandchildren David, PhD., Math, Robert, M.D., Ph.D. (Wife - Anna Kirby, M.D.), Adam, M.D. (Wife - Jennifer, M.D.), offsprings of Keith from a first marriage to Jeannette Schaar,  and Alexander and Sara Kim, from  Ken's marriage to Lauren; also Jennifer Borgardt (husband - Jim (PhD), Ken's daughter from an early marriage to Cheryl Matz. Also surviving him are his great grandchildren: the Borgardt's Aiden and Soren, Robert and Anna's Alexandra and Quinn and Adam and Jenny's Owen and, the latest addition, Violet. They also include  his niece, Claudia, daughter of his sister, Elena Martin (deceased), and Claudia' husband, Charles Hahn. Also saddened by his death are Glace's niece, Cynthia Doehr, and her daughter, Sierra C. Doehr who are grateful for his kindness, encouragement, and affection.

Glace and his family would like to thank those who in any way helped make Alex's remaining  time bearable and easier. Among these were  his doctors at Samsen Clinic: Dr. Jeffrey Hadsall, his primary physician, and Dr. Linda Chen, his neurologist; his caregivers  (Alex's Angels) -- Laura, Rafaela, Sara, and Denise; also early on, Rita, Patricia, and Carla; and the Visiting Nurses and Hospice Association. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the hospice.

A celebration of life will be held at the Community Center, Rancho Embarcadero at 224 Vereda Leyenda, Goleta on Saturday, August 6, 2016 from 2 to 5.

Published in The Santa Barbara News-Press Online Edition from July 1 to July 5, 2016
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