d. June 15, 2019
George Thomas Sallee died unexpectedly in the early evening of Saturday, June 15, 2019, at the UCD Medical Center of hemorrhagic stroke, blessed by the last rites of the Catholic Church and surrounded by his family who were guided by his advanced care directive that delineated his final wishes.
Tom, as he was always known to differentiate him from his father George Sallee, was born in Nyssa, a little farming community in eastern Oregon on the banks of the Snake River. He was the only child of George, a grocer and once member of the City Council, and Mary Sallee, the school superintendent’s bookkeeper/secretary, and to this day is still known there as George and Mary’s boy. He worked in the sugar beet fields and packing shed, became an Eagle Scout, and enjoyed a very happy childhood. He continues to have many relatives in nearby Boise, Idaho, and never lost his love for the area.
Tom won several statewide and national mathematics awards and graduated as valedictorian of his high school class. He attended the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena as a mathematics major, and CalTech, too, remained a seminal force in his life, giving him both a broad and deep education and long-lasting friendships. He went to UC Berkeley under a NSF fellowship for his master’s degree in mathematics and earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
While at Berkeley, he met his future wife Joan who was studying for her master’s in English at Mills College in Oakland. Introduced on a blind date, they went to hear Andres Segovia, the classical guitarist who was a mere speck on the stage at the Berkeley Convention Center stage from the cheap seats they could afford. But the die was cast and they dated long distance via Greyhound bus until they married two years later.
Tom was hired as an assistant professor of mathematics by UC Davis in 1966. Used to moving around every few years, Joan asked him where they would be going next, and Tom in horror responded that he intended to stay forever, and so they did, with wonderful sabbaticals spent twice in England and once in New Zealand.
Tom progressed through the academic ranks and also served as assistant dean for minority affairs (when no one else was found acceptable to all) and associate dean in the College of Letters and Science. Although he published in mathematics for a number of years, teaching was his true love and he slowly moved to the field of mathematics education, a combination of the fields of both math and education.
In 1989, he founded College Prep Math designed to improve the teaching of math in high schools. The company hired K-12 teachers to write junior high and high school textbooks currently used across 49 states. Although he retired as president of CPM in 2014, Tom remained active and involved with math teachers across the country until his death.
Tom also served the larger community as vice president and current president of the UCD Emeriti Association; the board of the Davis Aquadarts; and as co-president of the then-West Davis Elementary PTA where he mused that he took care of international relations while his wife did all the rest. He was a longtime member of a local investment group and two book groups; lector at St. James Catholic Church; enjoyed cooking, making and eating desserts; and going to plays, the opera and concerts where he valiantly tried to stay awake. Tom Sallee was a thoroughly good man with a wonderful sense of humor who had many friends who admired him and enjoyed being with him.
The fact that he died the day before Father’s Day and shortly before his wedding anniversary did not go unnoticed by his family, as being a father and a husband ranked large in Tom’s life. He is survived by his wife Joan; daughters Kristie, Claire and Margaret; son-in-law Michael Hutchings; daughter-in-law Molly Kenneth; grandsons Adam, Henry and George Hutchings, and River Kenneth; and granddaughters Maeve and Phoebe Sallee. He was predeceased by his parents and daughter Katie. He was greatly loved and will be sorely and wrenchingly missed.
A funeral Mass will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, June 21, at St. James Catholic Church in Davis, followed by burial at Davis Cemetery and a reception at the UCD Alumni Center. A Rosary will be said on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Smith Funeral Home in Davis.
Strictly voluntary donations may be sent for the G. Thomas Sallee Mathematics Teaching Endowment at UC Davis established at the time of Tom’s retirement. Checks should be made payable to the UC Davis Foundation and sent to Gladis Lopez, Dept. Manager, UC Davis Mathematics Dept., One Shields Avenue, Davis 95616. Donations may also be sent to Loaves and Fishes, providing services to the homeless, at 1321 North C St., Sacramento, CA 95811 or on-line; or to CalTech 1200 E. California Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91125.
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