On Nov. 29, many people including myself were notified that a wonderful human being passed away. We knew him as G. Reginald Daniel (Ph.D.) or “Reg”. Reg was a tenured professor at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) in the sociology department and had served many years as a graduate director. My sociology graduate cohort and I, a lot of seven, were his newest students in his first year back as a graduate director. He welcomed us gracefully.
My first ever contact with Reg was actually this fall quarter in his course on race, ethnicity, and nationality. I had asked him about the future, about external jobs apart from TA-ship in order to build the savings I needed.
He winked and responded, “As long as it’s not under the university, you can work anytime and anywhere you wish regardless of the 50 percent rule (meaning you can only work 20 hours a week). Just be mindful of the workload.”
At that moment I knew he was comfortable — he was trustworthy. Reg knew the struggle of being a graduate student, and he knew the struggle that so many other marginalized people faced in the wake of the academy, an impersonal place dominated by generational wealth and custom.
Any question or concern I had as a person unfamiliar with the characteristics of an ideal graduate student, Reg answered encouragingly. It is people like G. Reginald Daniel who make academic life possible, to teach and speak to the reality of new graduate students. It’s tough. He made that clear. Yet, Reg also believed in us and knew we would make it. It is professors like him who are remembered fondly by their students. Many people knew him better than I, and testimonies to his humor and relatability will be widespread.
I will end this short obit about Reg with an anecdote. The last time I ever had a personal conversation with Reginald Daniel was when I was a bit down on myself over the phone after a night out with some friends. I was anxious and doubted my ability to be able to succeed in a field that was so intimidating. Reg told me he believed in me. He told me to hang in there, that I have him and other professors who get the struggle. Wanting to cry that night, I thanked him and told him I look forward to another chat soon, maybe after our next class. He told me his line is always open to me.
I never got a chance to have that other chat. My cohort and I will remember him fondly as a beautiful soul who charmed us all with his entertaining stories, relatability, sheer theoretical knowledge, and wit. I am heartbroken about this loss. If he touched my heart in this way after knowing him for only a quarter, I cannot begin to imagine how his older students and colleagues at UCSB are feeling. I think it speaks volumes about his impact as an empathetic person.